Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Winning Back Joe Corkscrew

"France remains a reference for the world. But when it comes to marketing and packaging, we need to clean up our act.”
- Xavier de Eizaguirre, president of the management board of Baron Philippe de Rothschild

That attitude deserves a standing ovation!
As Xavier has “become a realist” and is now advocating rounder riper flavors, and investigating such moral taboos as wine boxes and screwcaps, I can now safely say that this guy “gets it”. Unfortunately, he'll probably get tarred and feathered for his troubles as well...

From the article:
“The attempt at restoration, fittingly, began with the wine, starting with the 2003 vintage. Priced at $6 to $8, Mouton Cadet rouge went from an oak- finished cabernet sauvignon-dominant wine to one that's unoaked and 65% merlot. The result is a fruitier, less tannic wine created in direct response to Australian and Spanish reds.”

Constellation has agreed to carry the Mouton Cadet line apparently because Rothschild actually did some consumer research to find out what people were looking for…!
(The most telling quote in the article about Rothschild [and a social commentary on the French wine industry as a whole] is from Leslie Joseph, Constellation VP of consumer research: "They listened to consumers, which was refreshing, especially coming from a French company…")

Unfortunately, the article also reinforces my point earlier about the flood of mediocre low end wines: there’s quite a bit of it, and it’s trying to get the attention of many middle-America consumers already drinking more flavorful [yellowtail]’s, etc, at or below the same pricepoints…
Even scarier for them is that many larger distributors like Pernod Ricard aren’t including any French wines in their portfolios...

...the situation’s pretty bleak when even your own countrymen pass on carrying your products…


Blogger caveman said...

Don't they realized that Merlot is out of fashion? Or maybe they (Rotschild) are just waiting for that Pinot Backlash, and people will once again embrace the ubiquitous merlot...hmmm.

So here is my somewhat off-topic and late question, how(if even) has Merlot been damaged by that mass of cheap(and not very good)south cali grocery wine? I Know from personal experience that when I talk of merlot, many people shudder ... and are shocked to realize that St. Emilion and many other fantastic wines (including Cali) are Merlot based. They have been burnt in the past and seem to be allergic to the grape.

April 18, 2006 10:32 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Yeah, I think it's one of the main reasons that you can start your comment off with "Merlot is out of fashion" and be accurate saying it.

But in addition to that there seems to have been a Bordeaux myth or feeling that Cab Sauv was solely responsible for the world's greatest wines - at least for a few decades before Merlot went big. I think everyone still thought of it as a blender rather than the main varietal of great wines. Wierd when you think of the examples to the contrary...

Alas, the cheap Merlot that sprang up to meet the demand burned people in 2 ways: it didn't have much 'ooomph' to it and disappointed, and was over priced for what it was as well (as people were being greedy). I think that kind of sullied the 'brand Merlot' name over the world as a whole.
Good news is that people are starting to experiment again, and prices for the low end stuff has seen a correction from the previous cycle.

Hopefully that scenario won't play out for the current Pinot Noir hot market (though there's already been quite a bit of inflation of Pinot prices on the bulk market over last year's prices).


April 19, 2006 11:10 AM  

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