Olivier Bernard, owner of the renowned Graves property Domaine de Chevalier, was unanimously voted today as president of high-end Bordeaux’s top marketing arm, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC).
‘We have common goals': Olivier Bernard
Bernard was the only candidate, and he replaces Sylvie Cazes, who resigned last month at the head of the UGC’s 134 members, mostly classified growths.
Best known by wine consumers for its world tasting tours, the UGC invests some €4m annually in communication, financed entirely by its members, and organises an average of 60 tasting events per year, including twenty major tasting tours in major cities in Europe, the United States, Asia and Russia.
‘I am looking forward to this great responsibility,’ Bernard told Decanter.com in an interview just before the official announcement.
A priority for his three-year tenure will be to work more closely – and ‘with greater transparency’, he stressed – with negociants. He plans to set up an eight-person ‘commission’ made up of four members of the UGCB and four members of the Union des Maisons de Bordeaux, which represents major negociant companies.
‘The commission will assess trips and voyages, to see how they could be more effective,’ he said. In the past, chateaux and negociants did not always coordinate activities because there had been ‘mistrust’: client contacts were not shared, for example.
‘But it makes a lot of sense that we work together to promote our wines, as we have common goals, to increase client interest,’ Bernard said. He also highlighted the fact that his cousin Patrick Bernard has been directing the negociant company Millésima for as long as he has been running Domaine de Chevalier. ‘This has helped us both to better appreciate our work,’ he said.
Bernard is likely to be active in the UGC commission, which will meet three or four times per year. One probable change, he said, will be new a new educational programme particularly for the Chinese market. ‘There is a large demand in China to learn about wine and not just taste the latest vintage,’ he explained.
Bernard, 52, will be assisted by three vice presidents: Patrick Maroteaux (former UGC President and owner of Chateau Branaire Ducru), Stephan Von Neipperg (Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere, among others) and Tristan Kressmann (Chateau Latour Martillac).
No new UGC members are expected now, Bernard said. ‘We are quite numerous already and conditions to join are strict.’ But when asked about more modest existing members, such as the non-cru classé Chateau Greysac, Bernard replied that the UGC is not meant to include only members with specific price categories, but rather requires ‘a steady commitment to excellence’ from its members.
Written by Panos Kakaviatos