Bordeaux winegrowers (pic: CIVB)

Bordeaux winegrowers (pic: CIVB)

CIVB president Bernard Farges talks to us about the prestigious French wine region's future in China, its strategy to connect with young drinkers in China and its fight against counterfeiters.

Q: France has returned to be China’s biggest wine exporter this year. How did Bordeaux perform in the first half of the year? Did you see a pickup from 2020 and 2019?

Bernard Farges: The volumes exported to China at the end of June 2021 amounted to 208,787 hectolitres, an increase of 55% compared to June 2020 (considering Covid-19’s negative impacts last year) and a 2% growth compared to June 2019. This is a very good recovery which shows that Chinese buyers are still attracted to Bordeaux wines.

At the end of July 2021, we recorded a 27% increase in volumes exported to China compared to July 2020. It is the country with the strongest growth over one year.

Q: Interest for Bordeaux seems to have waned in the past few years in the Chinese market. Did you notice a comeback especially in the wake of Australian wine’s ordeal in the China market?

BF: Consumers have changed. The occasions of consumption have evolved, as have the wines produced in Bordeaux. This evolution encourages to discover and there are still many products to be discovered by Chinese consumers, such as Bordeaux crémants, Bordeaux rosés…

Q: How important is Chinese wine market to Bordeaux?

BF: China has been the first export market for Bordeaux wines since 2010. In the first half of 2021, China represented 23% of the exported volumes.

Bordeaux is trying to shake off its dusty old image to appeal to younger drinkers in China (pic: CIVB)
Bordeaux is trying to shake off its dusty old image to appeal to younger drinkers in China (pic: CIVB)

Q: What are the plans you have for China going forward to raise Bordeaux’ profile and make it more accessible to younger wine consumers?

BF: We are currently reflecting on our segmentation strategy. Young consumers are among our priority targets. We will continue to promote the winemakers because they have always been the strength of Bordeaux. They are our best ambassadors. Modern, passionate men and women whose know-how combines tradition and innovation.

They reinvent Bordeaux. Today they produce wines that can be enjoyed by all consumers, including the younger generation and neophytes:

  • modern wines, full of freshness and fruit
  • wines for casual, off-dinner occasions
  • wines at extremely reasonable prices
  • unexpected wines to discover (for the reds but also all the colors)
  • with a respectful approach to nature and healthy wines for consumers

Several promotional actions will be launched between now and the end of 2021 and will continue in 2022 in order to promote all these wines to Chinese consumers, particularly the younger generation and women.

Digital is a key lever to continue to engage the conversation around Bordeaux wines, especially through the creation of dedicated content and collaboration with influencers and brands.

Lu Yang MS leading a Bordeaux tasting (pic: CIVB)
Lu Yang MS leading a Bordeaux tasting in China (pic: CIVB)

Q: What’s your impression of this year’s En Primeur campaign? Why should people get excited about Bordeaux again?

BF: The Primeurs are always a highlight in Bordeaux. Given the global and meteorological context, the 2020 vintage was a challenge that our producers took up. The 2020 vintage proves to be a great quality with a very good balance between alcohol, acidity and tannins and a slightly lower volume (-9% compared to 2019). It presents tasty dry white wines, rare but miraculous sweet wines, and structured and balanced red wines, with great successes.

Q: Bordeaux has certainly ramped up efforts to fight counterfeit wines in China. Has the problem improved and what are the other areas that still remain challenging to tackle the fake wine epidemic?

BF: Confronted with counterfeiting in China, C.I.V.B. is actively fighting against this phenomenon in cooperation with the Chinese authorities who have the same vision of AOCs as we do.

Our interprofession is developing a plan to protect GIs in 3 directions:

  1. use Chinese law to protect Bordeaux in the best possible way,
  2. identify and punish counterfeiters of Bordeaux wines,
  3. cooperate with the Chinese authorities.

Q: What are the areas/channels in your opinion that still have untapped potential to grow Bordeaux in China?

BF: Our wish is to continue to be as close as possible to the Chinese players (trade, media, consumers). The diversity of our wines: our range allows us to offer wines for all occasions. The young generation: this is a more curious, more cosmopolitan target. Wine consumption is changing, and it is up to us to promote wines that meet the expectations of consumers, including women: affordable, relaxed, modern, surprising.

Sustainable development is also a key issue for the Bordeaux vineyard. In 2021, 75% of the vineyard surface area is certified by an environmental approach.

Thus, the opening of our office will be an opportunity to launch new actions to:

  • attract young Chinese consumers, but also women
  • support and encourage the development of the trade
  • continue training activities for consumers and professionals thanks to the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux                                                                    

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