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Trading Place: Growing Global Distribution Through Bordeaux

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17/09/2019 Some renowned wineries are abandoning their own sales network for one global distributor - La Place de Bordeaux.

Opus One Winery from California was amongst one of the first celebrated wineries outside of France to take this unusual move. Following that, over the past dozen years, notable estates such as Masseto and Sassicaia from Tuscany, Clos Apalta in Chile and Vérité in Sonoma County - has also gained global distribution through La Place de Bordeaux. Number of wineries are exploring the option, although La Place is picky about whom it represents.

As Roger Morris states - “for those who can get in, it’s a win-win situation.”

Allan Sichel, Bordeaux’s CIVB trade group understands Bordeaux from all angles, and his family’s négociant firm, Maison Sichel, also owns a significant portion of Château Palmer.

“Négociants are merchants,” Sichel says, “Their core business is to buy and sell wine.”

This looks simple though until one gets into the details.

  1. First, various négociants have distributions to sell the same wines from the same châteaux in the same destination countries. In fact, some large châteaux may spread their distributions among several dozens of négoces. In countries such as the US, which has its own collection of distributing and marketing laws - retailers are often confused as to which négociants are selling wines from which châteaux.

  2. Second, there is another noteworthy class of merchants who serve as brokers between châteaux and négociants. While courtiers may not be as vital a link between the great-growth châteaux and La Place - they can be a pivotal association in getting lesser-known châteaux a decent distribution through La Place.

  3. Finally, to establish expected quality - most of the celebrated wines selling on La Place also take part in the en primeur barrel tastings each spring of the previous vintage. In addition to that, to establish an opening price, as there may be subsequent releases or tranches, they also take part in  “The campaign” that takes place in the following weeks.

“For years and years, the Bordeaux wine merchants have sold in their portfolios wines from outside Bordeaux, including wines from Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Provence and so on,” says Emmanuel Cruse, owner of Château d’Issan and Grand Master of the Commanderie du Bontemps de Médoc et des Graves Sauternes et Barsac. “Now, due to other investments, they are able to sell in their portfolios wines from the US, Argentina, South Africa, and so on.”

There are, of course, still people who want La Place to remain exclusively French.

“Some Bordeaux producers have voiced their concern around the arrival of ‘outside’ wines, which would lead to weaken the négociants’ motivation or ability to distribute their own wines,” Sichel concedes. “I do not believe such worry to be founded. Négociants can grow, and it is in everyone’s interest for La Place to grow and become stronger.”

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