Why France fails the wine brand test - Comment

Most popular

Diageo/LVMH move for Pernod won't wash

just-drinks speaks to Pernod CEO Alex Ricard

How to win the marketing war in spirits

From cannabis to carbs - top innovation trends

The just-drinks Analyst returns


Driving though the sun-pocked hills of southern France last weekend, talk turned to the question of still wine brands.

Badet Clements Les Jamelles is its flagship brand

Badet Clement's Les Jamelles is its flagship brand

Laurent Delaunay, the founder of winemaker and negotiant Badet Clément, is at the wheel of his SUV, taking me back to Carcassone in the heartland of the Languedoc region. He has just celebrated the company's 20th anniversary. Brands, and the marketing of them, are a natural line of enquiry for the owner of some France's biggest.

Perhaps more than any other French winemaker, Badet Clément has branding to thank for its success. For most of its existence it has not owned any vineyards (that changed last year with two purchases in the Languedoc) and has relied on contracted supplies. Nevertheless, the company has built a portfolio of brands from three regions - Burgundy, Languedoc-Roussillon and the Rhone valley - while also ploughing a profitable furrow in exclusive third-party brands for wine suppliers such as the UK's Matthew Clark.

Today, Badet Clément produces 15m bottles a year, growing at 10% per annum. Last year, it cleared EUR45m (US$51m) in sales, again a 10% jump on the previous year. Not bad for a company that started out in 1995 with just an office and a fax machine.

It is little surprise then, that Delaunay is a believer in the marketing of brands. That belief, however, puts him in a minority in France. 

Delaunay says there are two approaches to wine marketing: "The French approach and the rest of the world's."

According to Delaunay, the French are too focused on "the producers and the production". "The producers from the regions make the best wine they think will reflect the characteristics of their terroir, then they offer this wine to the market," he says. "They don't even ask themselves if it will please the consumers."

Better, says Delaunay, to go down the New World route of first asking what it is consumers want then providing them with the best example you can offer. This was what Badet Clement did with its core Les Jamelles brand, a Languedoc range that doesn't pretend to be anything other than French, but in a playful, fruit-forward fashion. 

"That is what we are trying to do," says Delaunay. "To take the best of the New World but still respect our French soul."

Delaunay's comments reopen the long-standing debate within the wine industry of whether to invest in brands or in the marketing of regional brands. What usually happens is that the international winemakers line up behind the brands while smaller producers favour a regional focus. That's because the big companies have the financial clout to invest in marketing, while the rest of the wine industry feels it cannot compete. 

However, when I spoke last year to one of the wine industry's most vocal proponents of wine brands, Accolade CEO Paul Schaafsma, he was adamant that when it comes to promoting your own wine, a lack of money is no obstacle. In his early days in the business in the UK, Schaafsma claimed, he built wine brands with nothing more a lot of tastings and the expense of shoe leather.

"You have to do clever things," Schaafsma said. "It's not just going to come to you. You have to put hard work into it."

Delaunay, however, suggests that it is already too late for France's still wines to catch up on brand building. He says the country has "missed the train" and desperately needs "a total change of mind" to move away from its "high-handed, Grand Cru" approach. He tells the story of a wine supplier in the Languedoc who wanted to leave the cooperative he sold his grapes to and come into the Badet Clement fold. He thought that to make more money he had to cut back on his yield as he could then sell his grapes for a higher price. Delaunay, however, told him that only by increasing his yield could he make more money. 

"He still believed what has been told to all the producers in France for the past 50 years, that the only solution is to lower your yield to make higher quality wines and sell at expensive prices," Delaunay told me. "That works for the top growers in Bordeaux and Burgundy, but it cannot work for everybody. There is no market for that."

According to Delauney, French still wine brands underperform compared to global rivals. Unless he can convince more people in the country of the power of brands, that is unlikely to change.

Sectors: Wine

Related Content

France has

France has "missed the train" on wine brands - Badet Clement...

Why is Pernod Ricard the only major multi-category player still in wine? - Comment

Why is Pernod Ricard the only major multi-category player still in wine? - Comment...

Why wine communication sucks - Industry Comment

Why wine communication sucks - Industry Comment...

This week in spirits & wine, featuring Virgin Wines, France's branding issues and a Jack Daniel's slowdown

This week in spirits & wine, featuring Virgin Wines, France's branding issues and a Jack Daniel's sl...

Oops! This article is copy protected.

Why can’t I copy the text on this page?

The ability to copy articles is specially reserved for people who are part of a group membership.

How do I become a group member?

To find out how you and your team can copy and share articles and save money as part of a group membership call Sean Clinton on
+44 (0)1527 573 736 or complete this form..

Forgot your password?