It is not quite Jack in the Box, but French wines are making solid progress in the USA. In 2013 sales of French wines increased with 7.3% to reach 9.4 million cases, Shanken News Daily reports, based on numbers from Impact Databank.
What counts in terms of numbers are of course the affordable wines in a modest price range, $8-$14. In this price range you do not find the most exciting French wines, but you do find some very reliable French brands that today can give good value for money. This is perhaps one of the more important developments on the French wine scene in recent times, the emergence of large-volume French brands designed to appeal to an “international” (mostly meaning Anglo-Saxon) market. Often they are skilfully branded and supported by significant marketing budgets.
Some examples, from the Shanken report:
Chateau d’Esclans grew their sales with 52% in 2013 reaching 50,000 cases in 2013. Chateau d’Esclans is a rosé from Provence that today is owned and managed by Sacha Lichine who has running a successful international négociant business for many years. In this case the current international trend for light and easy-to-drink rosé is obviously helping to move bottles.
Gérard Bertrand is another producer who has made great progress in the US in 2013: up 43% to 100,000 cases. Bertrand is a very marketing savvy producer in the Languedoc who has built a broad range of wines around a strong branding around his own name. He is sometimes mentioned as “the success story” of the Languedoc although it would be more correct to say “A success story”, since there are others.
Not very far away from Bertrand you can find Domaines Paul Mas, also in the Languedoc. Jean-Claude Mas has focussed less on using his own name as a brand and more on building individual wine brands. In fact, Paul Mas is a bigger producer than Gerard Bertrand, although not by much, but less well known. On the other hand, one of his brands, Arrogant Frog, is one of the best know French brands on the market.
Arrogant Frog has increased from 35,000 to 120,000 cases over two years, according to Shanken. In the US it sells for $10-$11. Interestingly, Arrogant Frog has recently moved away from using a screw cap as closure and returned to using natural cork. “Cork has an influence on my wines. For this style, in the first five years I believe cork is better, allowing a bit of evolution”, says Mas according to Shanken.
It is good to see that wine producer in France are more and more focusing on selling wines on the international markets, outside of France. It is there that the future of the French wine industry is to be found. It is there that the new wine consumers are. This also happens to be a theme that we touch on quite a lot in our new book on French wines.