by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)
While going through my weekly reading of posts, I came across this one from Steve Heimoff:
For Bordeaux, selling to Millennials will be harder than it seems, which can be found at http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/01/23/depends/
The gist of the post is that Bordeaux is doing really well among the elder set, and not so well among the young. Like the business model for any industry (with the possible exception of tobacco), it’s not so good when your main customer base is dying off. So Bordeaux finds itself in the sobering situation of being the premier wine in the world, but in decline.
So why is Bordeaux having such a hard time with the younger set? I have little doubt that, at least in part, it is, as Heimoff claims, that the elitist and pricey image of Bordeaux doesn’t jive so well with the trendy and cutting edge.
But I have a simpler explanation which, I think, accounts for even more of the problem. Bordeaux just isn’t that good. By that, I don’t necessarily mean to say that Bordeaux is a bad wine, or, more accurately, most Bordeaux’s are bad wines. Because most of them are not. And probably most of them are “good” wines.
But most consumers factor in not just the quality of the wine but its price. Viewed in this way, Bordeaux doesn’t stack up that well.
Because, truth be told, there are tons of good wines in this world. Now those of you who are regular readers of this blog are probably aware that Bordeaux is not my favorite wine. But, I have to acknowledge, that like all assessments of wine, that’s my personal and very subjective opinion. I may find them, by and large, to be fruit challenged, and endowed more with the tight green tannins than the soft round ones that I prefer.
Bordeaux has done an excellent marketing job. It has taken what should be a negative, the need to put the wines down for extended periods before they are drinkable, into a positive, making “being age worthy” a big plus.
But even if you grant that the quality of Bordeaux is, by and large, pretty good, it’s hard to make the argument that a $100 bottle of Bordeaux is twice as good as a $50 bottle of wine from many other wine regions throughout the world. In fact, I think if you pitted those $50 bottles of wine against $100 bottles of Bordeaux in a blind tasting, you would find the Bordeaux doesn’t rate any higher. I wouldn’t be surprised if in fact the Bordeaux rated lower. After all, when you’re buying Bordeaux, in large measure your paying for the name, and not what’s in the bottle.
There is no doubt that many name brands have managed to survive and charge what, by all objective standards, is a price higher than their products warrant. Think Tiffany, Mercedes-Benz, Louis Vuitton. You get the idea. But there are always newer competitors coming to market (think Lexus), which can provide a product of equivalent quality for less. The name brands survive, but market share suffers. At least Bordeaux does not have that problem, since its market share is pretty much set and pretty small. But, then again, it’s customer base is pretty small as well.
But to a certain extent it’s fighting an uphill battle in a marketplace where consumers that are not impressed by its brand (i.e. younger consumers) are simply not going to be willing to pay the premium that Bordeaux seeks (and maybe even needs) to extract.