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Burgundy Swansong; Branding and Offers Imminent

Scottish hill, beneath which we walked last weekend
We are coming to the end of a drawn out 2010 Burgundy campaign, during which I have attempted to hold clients' interest through a series of single-producer mini-offers: something I am trialling for the first time this year.

Why? Well, my goal and intention is to bring Bowes Wine clients fabulous wines in the easiest format possible, using some form of communication that is sufficiently succinct, yet ?in which I can adequately express my enthusiasm for a particular wine (or series of wines), whilst conveying a reasonable amount of concise information.

And I get the impression that this latest-to-be-tried format is not the ideal I had hoped it might be. I get the impression a degree of burgundy overkill has been experienced by clients in the latter stages of this timed-release. Perhaps it's time to move on. We have one or two producers as yet unoffered; maybe we can catch up with them at a later date.

Trouble is, at this time of year, "a later date" becomes a much later thing indeed. The 2010 Rhône wines are being released steadily and I have already reserved an excellent tranche of wine from a range of quality-conscious wine makers. Yet I need to get out to the Valley and taste for three days at a bare minimum and I have been struggling to find the time.

Then, in something of a cascade, we have a week of skiing from which I am flying straight to Bordeaux to taste the 2011 vintage. Not long thereafter I will have to be in Hong Kong, where I am assisting in a charity wine dinner. Where a Rhône offer or, indeed, a release of our remaining 2010 burgundies, will fit in all that, I am struggling to work out.

Changing the subject completely...the subject of branding in wine is never very far from my thoughts and is demanding more consideration in the face of my having, reasonably imminently, to start thinking about 2011 Bordeaux.

Of course, the individual châteaux are their own brands. And the communes hold their own sway over the consumer (how often does one meet a Pomerol person, or a Margaux man). I have now come to realise that vintages are very much their own brand, too.

Take 2010. After 2009, the 2010 releases were met by a Bordeaux-weary world; a body of consumers, collectors and investors who were all tuckered out with the region and from whom any interest in Bordeaux had been entirely wrung. I anticipated that clients might see the sense in buying a spread of cheaper wines, intent on the future drinking of mature wines produced in what was without doubt a vintage from the very top echelons.

Not a bit of it. Brand 2010 was dirty, tarnished by greed and mismanagement on the part of the Bordelais. The indifference was palpable.

Of course, a part of this indifference has an entirely pragmatic source. Stimulated into buying action by the excitement surrounding so many of the vintages since 2000 - 2003, 2005, 2009 and, to a lesser extent, 2004, 2006 and 2008 - many wine consumers have a great deal of claret in their cellars. At what stage do these people say hell, I have 30, 50, 80, 100 cases of red Bordeaux wine in my cellar and I neither want nor need any more. The desire is then to diversify. Even (as with the 2010s) if the next vintage is proclaimed the best of the lot, such proclaimation will bounce off a rubbery wall that makes the faint sound yadayadayada as it throws it all back.

So, coming up for Bowes Wine clients, we are planning an offer of wines from the longest standing "First Growth" of Spain and a small, fascinating range of Americana. In addition, there are the single vineyard Barbarescos (Barbareschi, I believe, is technically correct) of the Produttori de Barbaresco, a co-operative that, for years, has been making extremely fine wine from the Nebbiolo grape, perhaps the only variety capable of giving Pinot Noir a run for its money. There's also a Barolo and a Gattinara that I would like to unleash on our clients. Piemonte has been underexplored, both in my own cellar and in the offerings of Bowes Wine. Time to redress the issue, methinks!
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