French wine tries to reconquer Britain

27th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - French wine, until recently the tipple of choice for Britons, is attempting a comeback at the expense of 'New World' brands by selling itself in a simpler, more accessible way for the uninitiated.

LONDON, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - French wine, until recently the tipple of choice for Britons, is attempting a comeback at the expense of 'New World' brands by selling itself in a simpler, more accessible way for the uninitiated.

The industry has invested heavily in The Wine Show, the main British wine fair which takes place in London this weekend, with more than a quarter of the exhibition space devoted to wines from across the Channel.

Instead of the various regional distinctions that mark out different wines, wines will be rebranded by "experience" at the show, from "nights in", "nights out" and "dinner parties" to "celebrations", "outdoors" and "Christmas".

The aim is not to baffle non-wine buffs but at the same time keep the idea of diversity, which is one of French wine's key characteristics.

Britons — traditionally noted for their love of beer — have increased their wine consumption by 25 percent since 2000 and now spend more on the grape than the grain.

But unlike beer, the British wine industry is small and most of the wine drunk is imported.

Although French wines are still top choice in bars and restaurants, they have been overtaken by their Australian rivals in the retail sector. California, Chile and South African have also staked their claim.

"An average supermarket line now has wines from 20 countries," said Florence Rhydderch, from the French marketing agency Sopexa that is masterminding the Gallic makeover.

Matt Skinner, one of Britain's most well-known food critics, last Sunday called on French producers to learn how to "communicate with the guy who wants to spend three pounds 99 or 5.99" (five euros 90 cents or eight euros 90 cents) on a bottle in the off-licence or supermarket.

"The product has never been the issue. The challenge is how they present it to the consumer," Australian Skinner, who said he still prefers a good Bordeaux, told The Observer newspaper.

At wine shows, French wines are normally presented by where they come from but if studies are to be believed, this has left consumers scratching their heads.

But that could all change with Sopexa's specially-created "zones", which might have a syrupy number from the Loire Valley next to a champagne or a cote du rhone, allowing buyers to head home with very different wines at the same time.

But all this does not mean the cherished concept of regionality has been done away with completely, said Rhydderch.

"No other country has as varied and extensive a range of wines than France," she said. "If we get rid of this diversity, we make it commonplace and cease to be distinct from our foreign competitors."

Sopexa has not divulged how much the marketing drive is costing but Rhydderch admitted it has not come cheap — but was worth it because of London's position as the richest and most wine-loving region of Britain.

"It's imperative to have a sizeable and varied presence of French wines at The Wine Show," she said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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