British wine buffs rediscover taste for claret

Britain is rediscovering its 800 years old taste for Bordeaux wines. After a collapse in sales to the UK five years ago, exports of medium and higher quality red Bordeaux, or claret, are booming – defying the economic crisis which haunts other parts of the French wine industry.

Sales of Médoc and Haut Médoc appellation wines – long a British favourite – have more than doubled in quantity in the 12 months to the end of June. Sales of the higher price "village" appellation wines from the same areas have increased by 28 per cent. Overall exports of Bordeaux to Britain, red and white, have increased by 13 per cent in volume in the year to July and by 52 per cent by value – despite a sharp fall in overall wine exports from France to the UK.

What explains the sudden shift in British tastes? Are UK wine-lovers abandoning their flirtation with "New World" and Spanish and Italian wines and returning to their first love, Bordeaux (a taste established when south-west France was English-ruled in the Middle Ages)? Yes and no. The boom reflects a wider recovery in the fortunes of even the cheapest forms of Bordeaux, which were in deep crisis until a year ago. But exports of medium and higher quality red Bordeaux to Britain, and the US, have exploded in the last year largely because of the near-mythical reputation achieved by 2005 claret, regarded as one of the finest years in living memory.

The cheaper forms of red Bordeaux – and all white Bordeaux – have not benefited to the same extent. They have suffered, like many other French wines, from the collapse of sterling and the dollar against the euro. Total exports of cheap and middle-range French wines have tumbled by 15 per cent this year. It is noticeable, however, that other growing regions – such as Languedoc and Côtes du Rhône – have suffered far more than Bordeaux or Burgundy.

"The figures are very encouraging," said Jean-Philippe Code, chief economist of the CIVB, the main trade body for Bordeaux wines. "Britain is one of our most important markets."

Sales of middle-range Bordeaux wines – those which retail in Britain at between £6 and £10 a bottle, and especially those from the Medoc – were "quite exceptional", up 118 per cent. While cheaper Bordeaux did far less well, partly because of the high value of the euro, the highest-quality Médoc, which carries individual village names and sells at £10 to £25 a bottle, also jumped 28 per cent.

M. Code says the boom can be explained in large part by the "2005 effect". That year's Bordeaux vintage, both red and white, but especially the red, is regarded as the finest for many decades. Though it can be kept, middle-range 2005 Bordeaux is now drinkable and has been appearing – and rapidly disappearing – in wine shops and supermarkets in the UK in the past 12 months. The 2006 Bordeaux vintage is also thought to be very good, but 2007 is considered mediocre.

"It is clear that the French, or some of the French, are beginning to get their act together," said Richard Halstead, operations director for the British marketing company, Wine Intelligence.

"The British love affair with French wine has never really ended. There is a large, educated public in Britain for French wines at a good price, especially wines that will keep and prove to be a good investment."

And what of the 2008 Bordeaux vintage? It has been a very mixed summer. The vendange (grape picking) for white wines began last week. The vendange for red wines is due to start in early October – two weeks behind the average start date of recent years but back to what was "normal" 20 years ago.

"All is in the lap of the gods," said André de la Bretesche, director of the association of producers of generic Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur.

"The next two weeks are crucial. If we continue to have fine weather, the 2008 red vintage could be marvellous."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral