France Under One Roof

Allez les Bleus! Is French wine coming back?

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags French wine Cabernet sauvignon Chardonnay Terroir Uk

A creeping optimism about France's prospects on the much
sought-after UK wine market appeared to be taking hold of several
French wine producers and exporters at an industry show this week.

France Under One Roof, as the name suggests, is where gallic hopefuls from across the English Channel come together to strut their stuff, in London, the capital city of what is considered one the world's most dynamic wine markets.

In reality, of course, rivalry between the different tables is fierce.

Business is business, and is easily capable of overriding a common national identity these days.

What several French wineries have had in common recently, however, is problems on the UK market, mainly because of those pesky New World upstarts in Australia, California and now even Chile.

But is that about to change?

There was a distinct whiff of optimism infecting the hall of French wine at the Lord's cricket ground on Wednesday - more than can be said for the England cricket team anyway.

A variety of new brands looking to target both young and more mature consumers were presented.

There was part of a new range from Mont Tauch, which is set to have branded offerings stretching from £4.99 to around £15, and then there was Gérard Bertrand, an ex-rugby player who has turned his hand to the vines.

Both are from the troubled wine region of Languedoc Roussillon and both are slipping their new wine ranges neatly into retailers in the UK, including Sainsbury's and Somerfield.

"I am convinced that French wine will be coming back in the UK.

We have so many different kinds of wine, and I think the market will get bored rather quickly with only Australian or Californian products," said François Miquel, export sales director at Gérard Bertrand.

There are signs, too, that more French wine producers are switching on to marketing, which has for years been an alien concept to a number in the industry.

Robert-Stephan Touzet, export manager for PGA Domaines in Provence, agreed with Miquel, but added: "We have a commitment to bring the right products to the consumer.

That will make the difference."

PGA is set to launch new rosé wine brands in the UK this summer, in an attempt to capture a potential repeat of last year's rosé wine boom in the country.

Figures released earlier this year surprised some in the wine industry by revealing French wine sales grew in the UK in 2006, albeit by a mere 0.9 per cent.

The news has sparked more optimistic chatter, alhtough it remained unclear how much of the rise could be attributed to a hugely successful 2005 vintage among the Chateaux of Bordeaux.

Others at the showcase event this week thought the return of French wine would be almost a natural progression.

Anne Burchett, managing director of the Castel group in the UK, said: "I would not say the British are rediscovering French wines.

They have always known they were there.

But this country favours the underdog, and now the Australians are up there, France is coming back."

Castel UK had its new 'Cachet' brand on display this week, a grand departure for the firm outside of its normal private label business in the UK.

For all the talk about French wine returning, however, things still look pretty positive for the New World set.

Wine exports from the US grew 30 per cent last year, to $875m, the Wine Institute of San Fransisco announced just as France Under One Roof was getting into full swing Wednesday.

Some warned against fabricating a war-like situation between the New and Old World wineries.

David Grandorge MW, a wine consultant, said: "To me it's not a competition, so it's not a case of who will win.

I think there's room for both on the market."

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