Bordeaux and its wines on the Web: conservative or innovative?

  
 

By Evelyne Resnick, author of Wine Brands, a book that looks at how wineries and wine producers world over are adapting to possibilities of new media (written 2009). Her blog can be found at http://www.winebrandsblog.com/


Bordeaux is certainly the most famous wine region worldwide. Most people can locate Bordeaux on a map but can they locate Bordeaux on the Web? What image of Bordeaux and its wines does the Web carry? Are they innovative and using all the tools the Internet provides them? If they are on the Net, what kind of tools do they use: websites, blogs, wikis, forums, twitter? Is Bordeaux conservative or innovative?


Most of the Classified Growths, including the First Classified Growths, have a web site. Two noticeable exceptions: Petrus and Ausone. Is there any valid reason for such a prestigious name not to be on the Net? Besides a strong will of keeping customers and wine lovers away, there is no compelling reason for a brand to stay away from the Net. In fact it can be even detrimental. A short search for the Petrus name on google.com and yahoo.com brought a rather frightening answer. The online wine store
75cl.com created a web site dedicated to the ”king of wines“, as it was titled (in French). The graphics are awful and the content really mediocre is flanked by Google Ads:


Fortunately for the virtual image of the Bordeaux wines, the other prestigious estates have a web site to carry and protect their own image. Usually beautiful, they carry an image of luxury and elegance, very much the image of Bordeaux itself.
Bordeaux is also changing and moving forward as we slide more and more in the 21st Century. One of the best news of 2008 was the launch of the Cotes de Bordeaux, the new body grouping Cotes de Blaye, Cotes de Castillon, Cotes de Bordeaux and Cotes de Franc. The purpose of the group is to promote the wines of the 4 official appellations on international markets under one name (instead of four), easier to remember by potential consumers. They invested in a very nice web site, full of information on the history, the geography, the properties and the wines... 100% in French. How frustrating for the international Bordeaux lovers whose command of French might not be perfect
 
The best resource on the Net on Bordeaux wine is the official site of the professional body of the Bordeaux wines, the CIVB, available in many languages: French, English, German, Japanese and Chinese. The most general and complete information is at the tip of the fingers of the web surfers but there is no information on every estate.


Some properties provide the curious web surfer with a wealth of images and information on their web site, with a certain use of the technology. Château Ducru-Beaucaillou is a good example of a moderate – but not always wise – use of Flash. Each section of the site opens on a 360° panoramic view. A few dots when clicked upon direct the visitor to a special section:
Classic in its design, the web site is user friendly and respects the estate’s image. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t propose any more contemporary tools, such as a forum or, even better, a blog. Very few Bordeaux estates rely on Web 2.0 tools, such as a blog, videos to download or even videos. A few chateaux, such as Château de Roquebrune, in Lalande de Pomerol, Château Palmer, in Margaux or the Despagne family, have a corporate blog – usually at least bilingual French and English - but unfortutately they don’t really interact with their connoisseurs as they don’t expect or encourage answers from the readers.


More interestingly, some chateaux provide the web surfers with elaborate videos to download. Chateau Haut-Brion, Classified First growth, certainly the oldest and the smallest of the Five, was also the first one to create a web site – thanks to the foresight of its then President, Joan Dillon, Duchess of Mouchy. Haut-Brion was also the first – and up to now – the only one to offer to its connoisseurs and amateurs the possibility to express themselves on a forum open to comments, tasting notes and questions. The Haut-Brion team always answers quickly to any query. To help its customers to gain a better understanding of how a great wine is made year after year, the Haut-Brion management provided two kinds of videos to download: corporate videos on their magnificent estates, Haut-Brion and La Mission and a more educational video on how to decant an old wine:


Open to very new technologies, the management agreed on putting up those videos on community sites, such as YouTube. This strategy brought new types of visitors to the site – mostly younger people who had the opportunity to be initiated to the world of great wines.
  
 
The great Bordeaux wines are the leaders in innovation in the vineyard and in their winemaking techniques as well as the leaders on Internet. They could go even further on the path of innovation and get acquainted with the social media on Internet and the latest information tools, such as twitter or wikis. But unfortunately their lead is not at all followed by smaller or less prestigious estates which need the promotion to reach more markets and consumers. To those properties, social media is the answer on the Net, as they are efficient and very cost effective. They need to reinforce their Web presence to develop the consumers’ awareness and knowledge of their wines. It might take a few years for them to grasp the concept while the New World wineries are already ahead.