Bordeaux Grand Cru and US Château & Estate Wines: The Story behind the Story

(This is an executive summary from an exclusive VitaBella Report)(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr).
What is happening in such a world where the biggest US buyer of Bordeaux Grand Cru is jumping its approximately $100 million inventory in the market and, at the same time, a recently sold-out wine auction in Hong Kong of more than 800 lots has seen a 6-liter bottle of Chateau Lafite 1982 reaching HK$363,000 ($46,700), nearly twice its presale high estimate?
It is a strange world we are living in. A strange game "I love you, I hate you" where Bordeaux Grand Cru wines are right at the center. In fact, in the USA, Chateau & Estate Wines, a branch
of Diageo and the biggest distributor of Bordeaux in US since the 1970s, said they no longer will sell Bordeaux. And Decanter magazine recently reported that Vinfolio, the San Francisco-based internet wine retailer and fine wine service provider, has sought protection from bankruptcy. Launched in 2003 by former financier Steve Bachmann, this company had earned a stellar reputation over the past five years.At the same time,demand in Asia for first growth Bordeaux is soaring in the run-up to the celebrations, on 14 February, of the Year of the Tiger. Giving top wines as a gift has become trendy in China particularly at Chinese New Year and Autumn Festival times. In Hong Kong, twin 1.5 liter bottles of Chateau Petrus 1982 reached HK$435,600 and the city is proud of its 14 wine auctions worth almost HK$500 million held last year.
What should the Chateaux in Bordeaux learn from all of this?
1) US are and will continue to be a huge market for Bordeaux fine wines. For sure, the weak American dollar has not helped sales and a good but not great vintage such as 2007 has created little demand. The on premise business has definitely seen a significant decline at the high end and continues to sell through an inventory of slow moving wines. But with the early signs of a recovery in the economy, some restaurants buy again cases to re-build a shortened wine list. And on the long-run, the US market will continue to perform nicely for Bordeaux fine
2) The market for fine wines is global. This means that if some places may be in trouble to buy fine wines, some others may show a huge interest.Since Hong Kong scrapped wine duties in February 2008, demand for luxury wines spurred. I am always amazed to meet so many wine lovers in Asia who are eager to discover the fine wines from Bordeaux. This big community
of wine lovers in Asia already knows everything about the vintages and the terroirs. Europe, Americas and now Asia are the playing fields of Bordeaux Grand Cru wines.
3) In the 21st century, Chateaux should be proactive. The current courtier and négociant system is efficient and successful but chateaux need to be proactive to make sure that such a big announcement from Chateau & Estate Wines does not affect their sales and image. In fact, having your wines sold at a 40% discount does not only affect your sales in a short and medium-term, it will also affect your image on a long-term. Chateaux need to get closer to the market and better know and understand their customers' needs.
To be successful in the future, Châteaux should adapt now. Together with courtiers and negociants, Châteaux should start doing their own marketing to get closer to the regional markets, to their customers, such as distributors and wine merchants. This statement makes sense for any person related to any other industry in the world.The world has changed and habits should change. I am pretty sure that the announcement of Chateaux & Estate Wines will send a signal to the châteaux that it is the right time to define a successful marketing strategy. (More wine news on www.vitabella.fr).