Wine: A lesson in le marketing

Looking through the shop window of this spring's supermarket and high-street press tastings, one of the more striking features is the extent to which France is taking on board the competition of the New World and its customer-friendly face. The dull lists of meaningless appellations and négociant names are giving way to a host of brand names à la New World. Some arrive with a French accent, like Chamarré, Première, La Terre or Blason de Bourgogne. Others like Stone Road wouldn't look out of place on an Australian or Californian shelf. And, following in the footsteps of Fat Bastard Chardonnay, there's a new tongue-in-cheek breed like Le Freak, Chat en Oeuf, and the self-deprecating Arrogant Frog, telling us that the French can lighten up if they have to.

Speaking of frogs, animal labels are in too. In the New World, Australia has made great play of its cuddly creatures, South Africa its big game. The most successful, Yellow Tail, with its kangarooo on the label, has done for Australian wine what Crocodile Dundee did for the country's tourism. Now France is putting its best hoof and paw forward. At Morrisons' spring tasting, I came across four French bottles with, respectively, a cat, a hedgehog, a sandpiper and a butterfly on the label. Quite why we need cute animals on the label to buy wine I'm not sure, but at least they're accompanied by the growing use of grape varieties on the label to help us through the maze of wine styles. The flexibility of the vins de pays rules is a model, which latterly the snootier appellations are cottoning on to, hence the likes of Cave de Lugny Bourgogne Chardonnay and La Terre Bordeaux Merlot.

Encouraging as it is to see France making an effort to modernise its marketing, much of what's in the bottle remains unworthy of the flash labels. Many of the parcels brought in by Waitrose for their French wine showcase in May were underwhelming. Oddbins' recent Focus on France tasting was all the more disappointing for the fact that there were no fewer than seven wines, mostly mediocre, from Bichot, the burgundy négociant that Unwins (RIP) used to feature so heavily for some reason. Whatever happened to the Oddbins spirit of adventure? Equally depressing was the French section at Morrisons, and not just because when Morrisons swallowed up Safeway, they decimated an innovative wine range. Chamarré, for instance, a catch-all new mass-market brand, is inoffensive, but dull, similarly Première from the Loire and La Terre from Bordeaux.

It can be done. Blason de Bourgogne is one of the saving graces of the new French approach. From a region with as marginal a climate and fickle a grape as burgundy, consistency is not easy, but Blason hits the spot, albeit more so with its white wines, of which the vivid, buttery 2004 Blason de Bourgogne Chardonnay, £5.99, Morrisons, is an example. I was also taken not just with the striking label design of Chat en Oeuf (don't tell Châteauneuf-du-Pape), but this 2003 Côtes du Ventoux, £4.99, Morrisons, displays juicy cherry fruit sweetness with a fresh astringent twist of acidity. Supermarket own-label wines with traditional rather than fancy labels can also work for France if the wines are well-chosen. Sainsbury's Taste the Difference 2005 Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine, £4.99, 2005 Pouilly Fumé, £8.99, 2004 Sancerre, £8.99, and 2005 Chablis Cuvée Sainte Céline, £7.99, are a case in point: consistent, quality dry whites to knock your socks off for the price. These at least represent more than the triumph of form over content.

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness