The Bordeaux wine business, younger wine drinkers, and why the twain isn’t meeting

The latest Bordeaux wine marketing plan will probably fail, just as the others did, because it doesn’t understand that price is all – and Bordeaux costs too much for most of us to buy

Dear Bordeaux wine business:

I understand your current difficulties, what with the pandemic and the Trump tariff. I also understand how desperately you want to reach younger wine drinkers, since that will help with many of your current difficulties. Hence, once again, I take keyboard in hands to offer advice you don’t seem to be getting elsewhere – why Bordeaux is in such trouble with everyone under 35. Or even 40.

It’s price. Your wine costs too much, and anyone who isn’t a wealthy Baby Boomer probably isn’t going to buy it. There’s less and less quality $10 Bordeaux for sale in the U.S., and no one looks harder for these wines than I do.

And you have no one to blame but yourself. To most wine drinkers, Bordeaux means high prices and exclusivity, and you have been perfectly happy with that for years. Hence, I get offers from retailers pitching $650 bottles – on sale. And emails about academic studies touting your wine as an investment option – hardly what a 20-something wants to drink with takeout Chinese food.

But now that business is bad, you aren’t happy. But the catch is that you still don’t see price as the problem. Your new marketing campaign, aimed at young people, includes $30 wine. I rarely buy $30 wine, and I do this for a living. So why would someone else, who just wants wine because they want a glass of wine, spend $30?

Yes, yes, I know: Bordeaux makes the best wines in the world, gets the highest scores, and so on and so forth ad nauseum. Which is all well and good for wealthy Baby Boomers, but what does any of that have to do with someone who wants a half-bottle of wine for a Tuesday night dinner of leftover pizza? This is the thing you haven’t understood in years. You assume that all wine drinkers drink wine the same way – plan their meal, find the best wine for the meal, get out the corkscrew, pour the wine, and sit down and eat.

How much more Baby Boomer can you get?

Which leads us back to pricing: You already have the perfect entry level wine, the red Chateau Bonnet. It’s well-made, varietally correct, and offers an idea of what red Bordeaux is supposed to taste like. The catch? It costs as much as $18 in the U.S., which is almost twice its price not all that long ago. And the white is still $10 to $12 in this country, something that makes no sense at all. I love the red Bonnet, but it’s not worth $18.

That it costs $18 speaks to how you’ve lost touch with U.S. consumers, and why younger drinkers opt for a $6 Trader Joe private label from California – if they’re drinking wine at all. Figure out how to fix that kind of bloviated pricing, and you don’t need any fancy marketing plans to sell your wine to young people.

Hope this helps; I’m always ready to do more if need be.

Your pal,

The Wine Curmudgeon

Photo: “Bordeaux Wines at Fareham Wine Cellar” by Fareham Wine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2 thoughts on “The Bordeaux wine business, younger wine drinkers, and why the twain isn’t meeting

  • By Eric Awes - Reply

    You are correct in saying the French government should stop waste money on advertising the $20 + wines of the Left Bank and should focus its efforts promoting the Right Bank & Entre-Deux-Mers wine regions.
    Costco has offered 2016 Chateau’s Vieux Manoir ($6.99) & Ch. La Pirouette ($11.99). Trader Joe’s (San Diego stores) right now offers five red Bordeaux’s at under $10 retail. The wines are out there, they need to find USA distribution networks to start backed by a strong marketing campaign.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon - Reply

      I’ve gotten several emails, as well as this comment, about private label Bordeaux, sold only at specific retailers. That actually highlights the problem — if cheap Bordeaux is exclusive to just a few chains, that still leaves most of the country out.

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