Bordeaux winemakers forced to promote rose and white wines as young drinkers abandon red

David Chazan
Red wine has fallen out of favour with younger consumers - AFP

Bordeaux vintners facing declining sales are trying to appeal to younger drinkers by promoting lighter white and rosé wines as the French are drinking less of the clarets that made the region famous.

For centuries Bordeaux has been renowned for its medium- and full-bodied reds, but young French people are joining the global trend of favouring rosé, white and sparkling wines.

French connoisseurs once sniffed at rosé as a cheap tipple tolerated only during summer holidays in the south of France, but it has gained respectability thanks to a worldwide craze for blush wines that began in the United States a decade ago.

Breaking with Gallic tradition, young French people now tend to drink more wine as a pre-dinner apéritif rather than with meals, preferring easy-drinking rosés and whites to more complex reds, seen as better when paired with red meat or cheese.

Louise Descamps, 28, an assistant television producer, said: “It’s a change in lifestyle from our parents’ generation. They used to drink mainly red wine at dinner, but we tend to drink more at bars or parties. My friends and I drink more rosé or white. I still enjoy reds from time to time, but only ever with dinner.”

Bordeaux produces mainly red wine but is now investing in whites and rosés. Bernard Farges, president of the Bordeaux Wine Council, the region’s largest trade body, said: “Our sales have fallen under the effect of changing patterns of consumption. We are funding a campaign to promote and make our whites and rosés better known.”

The light “party wines” are selling better, but still account for only 8 per cent of Bordeaux wine sales.

Some experts are sceptical about their potential. Yohan Castaing, a wine critic, said: “It’s not because rosés made in other parts of France work well that they’ll work in Bordeaux. They’re not really part of Bordeaux’s DNA.”

 Mr Castaing said Bordeaux producers might do better to invest in lighter, easy-drinking reds.. Sales of Bordeaux wine in France fell by 8 per cent in terms of value last year and 13 per cent by volume.

Export sales rose 4 per cent by value but fell 13 per cent by volume. Other problems faced by France’s largest wine-growing region are that one of its largest export markets, China, is buying more wines from countries such as Australia and Chile, which are often cheaper.

Also, late frost in 2017 reduced production by up to 40 per cent in some Bordeaux vineyards. Rosé sales have tripled in France in less than 20 years, and now make up a third of sales by volume.