Loire wines rebranded as fashion item to appeal to women drinkers

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Fancy a glass of soupçon de fruit instead of pinot noir? French wine producers think you do.

Faced with a decline in wine sales, some producers from the Loire Valley are updating and repackaging their tipple. They are renaming wines, reshaping bottles, and even producing "ready to drink" glassfuls of wine, breaking years of tradition and ditching the sacrosanct "appellation contrôlée" in the hope of appealing to new customers.

Take the soupçon de fruit, a cabernet rose packaged like a perfume bottle, launched two years ago by Maison Lacheteau and aimed at the female market. According to Bertrand Giscard, the marketing director of Maison Lacheteau, women now account for 70 per cent of wine purchases, so "it has to be a fashion item which responds to impulse buying".

A Muscadet-sur-Lie has been renamed Pen Duick, after the boats sailed by the French yachtsman Eric Tabarly. One million bottles of Pen Duick are now sold every year. It is geared towards customers looking for a simple wine that hits the palate straight away. "People don't ask for Muscadet, but for Pen Duick", says Pascal Guibal of Marcel Sautejeau, which markets the wine.

One producer is even launching a special Valentine's range on 14 February. Ackerman/Rémy Pannier of Saumur is packaging three of its wines in curvy bottles, complete with recipe suggestions, to attract new customers next Tuesday.

Wines have been getting better over the past decade, but quality alone is not enough to boost sales. As the expert Alain Ponsard explains: "A wine list in a restaurant, or the label on a bottle in a supermarket, doesn't mean anything [to most people]".

Some wine-growers, however, are sceptical of the trendy, more sugary, wines. "A wine's added value must, above all, start with its contents. This is what will make the difference", warns Frederic Brochet, the creator of the organic label Ampiladae.