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Wine pundits label France ‘dysfunctional’

Leading wine industry figures have called France - and Bordeaux - 'dysfunctional'.

Speaking at a Vinexpo conference on the topic of solutions to France’s viticultural crisis, Tony Spawton, associate professor of wine marketing at the University of South Australia, said France’s wine industry needed to address its serious infrastructure problems.

‘The fact the world’s leading wine region is having to distill wine is a bad sign,’ said Spawton.

‘Bordeaux should be selling everything,’ he said. He also criticised the region for being too focused on Parker points and said it was no longer a benchmark for Cabernet Sauvignon.

He predicted that first growths would associate themselves increasingly with luxury goods and less with wine, and said that mid- to low-end producers must consolidate in order to survive.

‘Spain is amalgamating co-ops, and Italy is in the process. France has not done it,’ he said.

Another speaker, UK wine writer Robert Joseph – who produces wine in France – said dysfunctionalities in Bordeaux, and France in general, existed at many levels.

He cited a ‘lack of wine branding, poor marketing – with the exception of Champagne’ – and the fact that Bordeaux customers are ‘blackmailed’ into buying.

Many Bordeaux negociants agreed that sales methods must be changed quickly, and called the recent freeze on purchases by two major American buyers – Southern Wine and Spirits and Diageo’s Chateau & Estate Wines – good news.

‘It is a kick up the arse that will make them live in the real world,’ said one French producer who asked not to be identified.

‘The biggest change will be producers actually asking themselves who is drinking, why, and questioning the blind assumption that there is a market out there for this kind of wine.’

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Written by Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux

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