Bordeaux on screen

Bordeaux wines have appeared in a number of films and books.

A few of them include:
The new Sebastian Faulk James Bond novel, Devil May Care, has Bond drinking Chateau Batailley, the Pauillac fifth growth. He is drinking the 1958 in Paris, talking to a French detective called Mathis.  In the book, Mathis says, 'It's a fifth growth... it comes from a few metres west of Latour, but it's a fraction of the price. Try it.'

It's mentioned a few times throughout the text, even in the last scene when he 'draws back the cork of a Chateau Batailley' before seducing his latest conquest.

I guess the owner, Philippe Casteja (see his profile here), must be a pretty happy man.

Good profile of the chateau here

Of course Saint Emilion's Chateau Angelus is drunk by Bond on the train with Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale.

The story goes that when de Bouard was approached by producer Barbara Broccolli for some bottles, he found they weren't happy with anything less than the best.

'I considered giving the Broccollis the 1990. But they said ”you do realise James Bond has a taste for at least the '82?“'


Chateau Angelus also made it into La Vie en Rose, when Edith Piaf and her boyfriend, boxer Marcel Cerdan, drank a bottle in a restaurant in New York.

There is in fact a long relationship between Chateau Angelus and cinema - in recent years, a bottle of the wine has appeared in numerous French and international films. Besides the two mentioned above, it was in Dialogue avec Mon Jardinier (2007, with Daniel Auteuil), Albert est Mechant (2004, with Michel Serrault) and this year two French films - Ca se Soigne and Passe-Passe.

Hubert de Bouard ascribes this to the distinctive yellow label, with its bell. 'It is easily recognisable, so when it appears on the big screen, often during a restaurant scene, in shows the viewer that the character is a true wine lover.'

Bordeaux advertising campaign

Myths of Bordeaux wine

1) All Bordeaux is expensive

Bordeaux is split, roughly, into 5% of top, sought after, classified wines such as Haut Brion, Angelus, Le Pin etc, that can reach upwards of EUR3,000 per bottle. Even less rareified, but still renowned, wines such as Leoville Les Cas can easily reach into the several hundreds of pounds per bottle. But 95% of wines from this region are very reasonable, sold at under EUR10 a bottle.

2) All Bordeaux should be lain down

If you have paid EUR3,000 for a bottle of wine you had better hope it can be cellared and enjoyed in 40 years time! But this is certainly not true for many, many wines from the region. Personally, I think even many of the winemakers themselves make this mistake and promote their wines as if they should be left for 10 years minimum. The 'lesser' terroirs (ie the majority of them) will be ready to drink immediately in smaller vintages (such as 2007), and within five years in even the best vintages (2005).

3) Bordeaux is only red wine


In fact, only 30 years ago, the region was almost evenly split red and white. Today it is 89% red wine and 11% white (of which 8% is dry white and 3% is sweet). The white wines today, particularly from Pessac Leognan, are highy sought after internationally.

4) All Bordeaux prices vary widely from year to year


Again, it is the 5% of classified wines that vary their prices. The smaller chateaux in the less well known appellations have no ability, or desire, to vary their prices depending on the perceived value of the vintage.

5) Bordeaux quality varies widely from year to year

There are still, undeniably, vintages that are better than others (again, the example above of 2005 versus 2007), but modern techniques in the vineyard and cellar mean that there is much less variation than there once was. And almost all chateaux, certainly those with money, can deal with pretty much every weather condition Mother Nature can throw at them. I think a clearer way to look at vintages is to divide them into early drinking (ie often more consumer friendly) and later drinking (so potential investment vintages).

6) Bordeaux is closed and off-limits to non-professional visitors


The biggest change over the past five years has been in the welcome to tourists and non-professional visitors. Bordeaux was just selected Best Wine Tourism Destination in the world by users of TripAdvisor in the US!

7) All Bordeaux should be decanted

I would decant a young, big wine that ideally should be left a little longer before drinking. That way you can get the oxygen into it and open it up a bit. Old wines with deposits can also be decanted... but there is a limit, after which it becomes potentially harmful. If you have a very old wine, decanting it could destroy the delicate aromas.

Why Bordeaux? What makes this region so famous internationally?

First published by Oxford Wine Company, by Jane Anson

The first ever auction held at Christies, in 1766, featured a number of bottles of ‘claret’ from Bordeaux, and the region has been a regular feature of auction houses ever since. Today, you could sell a bottle of 2005 Chateau Petrus for almost £3,000 for a single bottle, if you were lucky (and wealthy) enough to have bought it en primeur for around £500. In 2007, the Bordeaux Fine Wine market outperformed the FTSE by a considerable margin, rising 39% against the FTSE’s 3.4%.

All of this is good news for the producers of Bordeaux wines, both big and small – because even if their wines never end up under the hammer, all local vignerons get to enjoy the cachet of sharing the same origin as big guns such as Petrus, Le Pin, Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Latour. The very fact that Bordeaux wines are able to be bought and sold with such regularity is surely because there are few regions world over with the same name recognition, the same promise of ageing ability and reliable pleasure that Bordeaux has been able to offer. There are even fewer with comparable history; that reaches back over 2,000 years to Roman times, and the first planting of vines in this tiny corner of southwest France.


The renown of Bordeaux wine is in many ways a geographical accident. Even the name Bordeaux – au bord de l’eau, by the water – gives the major clue to its first route to fame. The region is close enough to the Atlantic Ocean to give a gentle maritime climate, far enough north on the 45th parallel to allow a long, cool growing season to allow delicacy of flavours to develop, with the softening effect of the Gulf Stream ushering in long, warm autumns that allow the grapes to ripen fully.
The location of the city itself, 80km inland from the ocean, meant a safe harbour that allowed trade to flourish (the Garonne river as it passes through Bordeaux is called Port de la Lune because of its crescent shape, deep enough that even today cruise ships can sail right up and moor in the city centre). Until the 18th century, piracy was a real threat on the open seas, and a safe haven was needed if wine and other wares were to be loaded off and on the boats undisturbed. This effect has been seen in other areas – Cognac for example, was able to get swiftly to market because of its location alongside the River Charente, and therefore became much more famous than its land-locked cousin Armagnac. In Bordeaux, the river Garonne and especially its busy Quai de Chartrons provided this, and merchants from Ireland, England, Holland and Germany made it their home. Names of today’s wine merchants such as Barton, Schroeder, Kressman and Sichel all attest to the success of these ventures that were started centuries ago and are still trading from Bordeaux today.


Besides the advantages of geography, politics came into play in creating an international market for these wines. From the 12th to the 15th century, following the marriage of Henry Plantagenet to Alienor of Aquitaine, this strip of southwest France became part of English territory, and the majority of wine produced in Bordeaux was traded with the English market in exchange for tea, china and other goods. Following a royal decree, taxes were also abolished on Bordeaux wines, making it far more attractive to sell in London than in other parts of France.


This is one of the key differences between Bordeaux and Burgundy, France’s other iconic red wine region. Again due to geography, for much of its early history Burgundy found its main market in Paris, while Bordeaux was heading over the sea to England. Even the classic English name for Bordeaux wine, the ‘claret’ described in Christie’s first auction back in the 18th century, stems from this time. The wine that was produced in Bordeaux during the English reign was a far paler drink than is made today. You can still try a version of it in the region today, where they continue make a dark rosé known as ‘clairet’. In colour and taste, it lies somewhere in between a usual rosé and a red wine. This was the style that was most exported from Bordeaux until the 18th century, and its name over time became Anglicised from ‘clairet’ to claret. Today, no one outside of England uses the term claret, preferring instead ‘red Bordeaux’, or just ‘Bordeaux’, but it is still protected Europe-wide as meaning a red wine that comes from the vineyards that lie on either side of the Garonne river.

There is yet another key reason for Bordeaux’s supremacy historically – that it was the first wine region in the world to put together a simple classification of its wines, from level one to level five, easy to understand by consumers, not unlike the impact that Robert Parker’s 100-point system was to have 130 years later. This classification, in 1855 at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, ranked wines from the Médoc and Sauternes regions, according to the prices that they reached on the marketplace. The same ranking system holds true today, giving the world’s merchants and wine collectors something easily identifiable to trade, talk about and – of course – drink.


The 1855 classified growths are far from the only great wines in Bordeaux, but they are the ones that gave the region status internationally. Today, there are many stellar wines from all over, with smaller areas (appellations) such as Fronsac, the Bordeaux Cotes and Entre deux Mers promising some of the most exciting bottles, and Sauternes and wines of the Medoc’s cru bourgeois offering some of the best known names. Bordeaux is just as exciting today as it has ever been, with the city gaining UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2007, with more and more vineyards owned by international figures from the UK, China, India, the States and elsewhere, and with new techniques continually evolving in the vineyard and the winery.

Bordeaux in figures

Wine is the 2nd most important export for the Aquitaine region (after aeronautics), contributing 11% of the value of exported goods at 1.429 billion euros in 2007. It is the third most important value earner for French wine exports after Champagne and Cognac.

In 2012, the value of the Bordeaux wine industry was €4.3 billion (5.5 million hectolitres). 23 bottles of Bordeaux are sold every second globally.
Bordeaux has 60 appellations with a total production area of 117.500 hectares in 2009.  

It is France's largest quality (AOC) wine growing area.

Average size of Bordeaux vineyard: 14.6 hectares (source CIVB, 2008)
This is broken down into:
46.5% Bordeaux red, rose and Bdx Superieur
15% Cotes
17% Medoc and Graves
10.5% St Emilion/Pomerol/Fronsac
9% Dry whites
2% Sweet whites

• 2009 : 5,7 millions d’hectolitres (+20% par rapport à 2008)
• 2008 : 4,8 millions d’hl
• 2007 : 5,7 millions d’hl
Grape varieties planted in Bordeaux (2007 figures)

Merlot (68,911 hectares) - majority Right Bank, but all over Bordeaux
Cabernet Sauvignon (27,870 hectares) - majority in Medoc, and a lot in PL and Graves
Cabernet Franc (12,933 hectares)
Cot / Malbec (947 hectares)
Petit Verdot (472 hectares)
Other reds (312 hectares)

Semillon (7,650 hectares)
Sauvignon Blanc (5,0010 hectares)
Muscadelle (919 hectares)
Ugni Blanc (311 hectares)
Colombard (121 hectares)
Merlot Blanc (39 hectares)

Other whites (10 hectares) 

This breaks down into (these figures are for 2009):

Red Grape Plantings- 89% of total:
63% Merlot
25% Cabernet Sauvignon
11% Cabernet Franc
1% Other reds (other allowable reds are malbec, carmanere and petit verdot)

White Grape Plantings - 11% of total:
53% Semillon
38% Sauvignon Blanc
6% Muscadelle
3% Other whites (other allowable whites are ugni blanc, colombard and folle blanche)


In 2009, Bordeaux grew 1.5% of the world's vines.

Bordeaux sells 58% of its production in France, and 42% to export (2012).

In the past 20 years, the number of winegrowers has halved, from 20,000 in 1987 to 9,500 in 2007. At the average size of estate has increased, from 5 hectaresin 1987 to almost 13 hectares in 2007.
There are 24 wine cooperatives across the Gironde - and Plan Bordeaux Demain hopes that this will become just five main groups by 2016. These are most likely to be Caves de Rauzan, Univitis, L'Union Guyenne, Les Vignerons de Tutial and USVBA (further info )
70% of Bordeaux production is sold via the 300-400 wine merchants, or negociants.
In 2007, 93 brokers, or courtiers, dealt with 80.5% of sales to merchants.

Has changed significantly - those with high vigour, such as 1103P and 5BB are losing popularity, as is the SO4, in favour of low-vigour rootstock such as 101-14 MG, le 3309C ou le 420A. The Riparia Gloire de Montpellier is also popular, which shortens the vegetative cycle and so makes earlier-ripening grapes. This last one may not be suitable with global warming.

Production Per Appellation

Bordeaux – 2.085Mhl in 2007
Bordeaux Superieur – 234,431hl in 2007
Medoc – 239,642hl in 2007
Listrac – 28,802hl in 2007
Saint Estephe – 56,505hl in 2007
Pauillac – 55,410hl in 2007
Haut Medoc – 213,893hl in 2007
Margaux – 71,360hl in 2007
Moulis – 30,277hl in 2007
Saint Julien – 43,588hl in 2007
Red Graves – 119, 813hl in 2007
Red Pessac Leognan – 60,381
Saint Emilion Grand Cru – 166,642hl in 2007
Saint Emilion – 87,499hl in 2007
Pomerol – 34,850hl in 2007
Fronsac – 37,352hl in 2007
Premieres Cotes de Blaye – 322,237hl in 2007
Bordeaux Blanc – 311,832hl in 2007
Entre deux Mers – 73,215hl in 2007

Regional analysis

First published Wine Business International, February 2008

Christian Seely, managing director of Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron and Chateau Petit Village in Pomerol, has a privileged overview of the workings of the upper end of the Bordeaux market place. At a recent wine conference, he spoke of the economics of making wine in the region. ‘It hardly needs to be stated that over the past 20 years, Bordeaux wines have proved a sound investment at the higher end’. He illustrated his point with figures showing that, since 1986, the price of the first growths of Bordeaux had risen an average of 988%, the second growths 477% and the third growths 245%. It’s not of course just the classified growths of the Left Bank that attracts those rises. In more recent years, Saint Emilion’s Chateau Ausone has become Bordeaux’s most expensive wine during the annual en primeur campaign, and Pomerol stars such as Petrus and Le Pin continue to attract enormous sums (a case of Pomerol’s Chateau Petrus 1982, for example, is currently going for £43,700).

But the figures also starkly illustrate the disparity in the Bordeaux marketplace. Over the same 20 year period, the price of the ‘basic Bordeaux’ has remained more or less unchanged, fluctuating between €800 and €1,200 per tonneau (a tonneau contains around 1,300 bottles). Bordeaux has around 10,000 winemakers, 400 negociants and 120 courtiers, and one out of every five adults in the region is involved in the wine business either directly or indirectly. But the spectacular growth rates concern only perhaps 200 – at a generous estimate – of the region’s properties. These are the ones with a secondary market that sell on in auction houses and make margins at every point of the retail chain. For the rest, the competition from emerging wine producing countries, falling consumption in France and tougher drink driving laws have all proved heavy burdens.

Bordeaux is still France’s largest quality wine region, making 40% of its AOC wines, and as such is enormously important to the French economy as a whole, for which wine created US$7 billion towards the GDP in 2004. International corporations, from Peugeot to Louis Roederer to LVMH have invested in the region in recent years, taking control of flagship properties such as Chateau Guiraud, Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande and Chateau Yquem. However, in landowning as elsewhere it is a two-speed economy. While appellations such as Saint Emilion and Margaux have land prices of up to €4 million per hectare, French bank Credit Agricole is the biggest viticultural landowners in Bordeaux today, having repossessed so many smaller vineyards, and prices in the less presitigious appellations have fallen steeply from highs in 2001 and 2002.

Sales both domestically and to export are equally shaky. Overall, sales fell for five straight years from 2001 to 2006, although figures for August 1 2006 to July 31 2007 stabilised, reaching 5.67 million hectolitres, up 0.4% from the previous year. Of this 32% was sold in France, and 68% overseas. Russia in particular has seen strong growth, with exports up 54% to 30,400 hectolitres. On the export market, sales rose 3% in volume, 4% in value. The figures however, reveal more worrying trends when broken down by appellation (see box) – particularly again for the basic red Bordeaux, which continues to lose market share.

The exposure of almost 35% to the French domestic market is also risky. Annual French wine consumption fell by 11.1% to four billion bottles between 2001 and 2005 and continues to decline. France, currently the world's largest consumer, is expected to fall behind both the US and Italy by 2010. Today, only 32 million French people consume wine (about half the French population) and only 21 percent aged 15 or more consume wine regularly. This has a major impact on the amount consumed which in the last four decades has gone from 160 litres per person per year to about 67 litres today – and it may be no coincidence that the latest figures from the FEVS (Federations Export Vins et Spiritueux) show that one of the two French regions with runaway success, Cognac, is over 90% export (the other, Champagne, is still around 50/50, although with exports rising fast).

The market structure of Bordeaux is unlikely to change, partly because of the vested interests in the system. For a start, power is concentrated – overall, 70% of Bordeaux wine is sold by the 400 negociants on the Place de Bordeaux. In 2003 (latest figures available at the Union des Maisons de Bordeaux), their total turnover was €3.3 billion (€1 billion for export, with sales in over 160 countries), and in 2004, 44 wine merchants had a combined turnover of €2.1 billion, accounting for 84% of the total turnover of the Place. And just 20% of courtiers account for 80% of transactions. Almost all wine merchants also own chateaux, and have exclusive deals to distribute others, meaning that the structure cosily supports jobs and historical relationships within the region itself. It also means that the focus of Bordeaux continues to lie not on large brands but on chateaux, whether the prestigious names or the smaller properties. The biggest brand in Bordeaux remains Mouton Cadet, with annual sales of around 1.3 million cases, but sales in the US have reportedly dropped 300,000 cases per year since 1992, and in a world where Yellow Tail sells over one million cases, can Bordeaux hope to ever have a truly international brand?

Pascal Loridon, marketing director for the CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionel des Vins de Bordeaux), comments. ‘The organisation of the trade in Bordeaux will not allow a brand of 10 million bottles. Maybe as cooperatives start working together this will happen, but globally it just doesn’t correspond to the structure of the Bordeaux vineyards. I wish there could be more, but very few companies are really dedicated to brands. They don’t have that mindset, they are dealing with grand crus and petit chateaux, but their business model is not fully brand minded.’

Bill Deutsch of WJ Deutsch & Co, the US’s fourth largest wine importer, annually importing over 9 million cases of wine, including YellowTail, import Andre Lurton’s range of wines from Bordeaux, including Chateau Bonnet. He is blunt about the region’s chances of creating an international brand. ‘Frankly, don’t bother. A Bordeaux brand will never happen. You could never sell 100,000 cases in the US for the simple reason that Bordeaux doesn’t make the kind of wine that large numbers of people want to drink. Any successful brand must contain a merlot, a cabernet sauvignon and a chardonnay, and besides the lacking grape, Bordeaux just can’t deliver a mass market taste profile; it’s too acidic, too tannic, too lean for majority tastes.  You need at least 500,000 cases to be a player in the US market, at a maximum of US$7-8 (in the UK that figure would be closer to 50,000 cases). To achieve that, you need to spending at least 10% of the retail price on ATL marketing. The figures just don’t stack up from Bordeaux. Even if producers can meet the price point, they would have no money left over for marketing.’

‘And then there is the labelling. Chateau Bonnet is sold as a Sauvignon in the US, or as a white Bordeaux, or as an André Lurton. But never as an Entre deux Mers. The Bonnet white taste profile works in this market, but if Bonnet came from California they would sell 100,000 cases, not 10,000 – the origin is so key.’

James Ryland, the marketing director for André Lurton, comments, ‘This doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity for Bordeaux, just that chasing after bigger production in itself won’t work. The only route is bloody hard work. Concentrate on the US$10-15 range and try to push hundreds of 20,000 case properties.’

Can the smaller properties make real inroads into the market? ‘The problem,’ says Thierry Arnaud of Chateau Puy Arnaud in Cotes de Castillon, ‘is the fractured nature of the market. The small producers find it harder and harder to work with négociants, who just are not interested in taking on wines that they have to work hard for, and the négociants are incapable of working together to build a brand that will work on a large scale.’

Bur this may in fact drive many smaller producers to take control of their own marketing. Arnaud, despite his words above, bought Puy Arnaud in 2000 after selling Chateau Pavie, as a property selling almost the entire production in bulk. He has since raised the profile and entered into the Place de Bordeaux in just five years, a very difficult feat for a small property. Other small chateau owners take the view that direct selling offers great possibilities, particularly if they emanate the approach of bigger structures. ‘Increasingly,’ says Loridon, ‘there are brands which are chateaux: Chateau Pey de la Tour is a brand, Chateau Bonnet is a brand, Chateau Tour de Mirambeau is becoming a brand. These chateaux are treated as a brand with the authenticity of a chateaux, and that is a model that more and more properties should be following’. The CIVB is helping this approach by underlining the word chateaux in its ongoing ATL advertising campaign.

Gilles Laurencin, owner of a small property in the Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux, launched in 2005 a branded wine known as CABS, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, with a London black taxi cab on the label. ‘I had heard the word ‘cabs’ referring to a blended wine when in California,’ says Laurencin. ‘I thought of developing it for the English market, but it’s in the US where it has really taken off.’ Today he sells through Beverage and More stores in the California, and is thinking of buying in grapes to expand production.

There are other signs that Bordeaux is freeing itself up in certain areas. The Côtes – Castillon, Blaye, Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux and Côtes de Franc – traditionally seen as among the most rustic appellations, with many entry price wines, are now working together, creating one overall appellation as opposed to four separate ones. This means, importantly, that there will be 54 appellations in Bordeaux as opposed to the current 57 from 2008. Côtes de Bourg has so far been unwilling to join, preferring to keep its own identity. Christophe Chateau, president of the Union des Côtes de Bordeaux said, ‘This association will make things simpler in the eyes of the consumer – one overall appellation, with the communal names retained for a sense of place. The aim is to have access to greater stocks of wine, so we can create effective brands. Overall, we have nearly 10% of the production of Bordeaux, which gives us great negotiating power.’ They are concentrating largely on the French market – where there is higher recognition of the appellations – but are looking to expand beyond their current 10% export.

The other key indicator of change in Bordeaux is in its approach to working with supermarkets, an area that traditionally it has been weak and is of course essential for any successful strategy in the modern retailing world. Jonathan Evans, Managing Director of Summit, the CIVB's UK Promotions Agency, says, ‘There is a healthy market for small, ‘hand-crafted’ niche wines. Even UK supermarkets are strengthening their ranges at the £5+ price points to encourage consumers to try new styles and of course to trade-up in price.  One could argue this is where it's counter-productive to be a global brand. Better to be a small, chateau label with the pulling power of the Bordeaux region behind you.

I think this can only help Bordeaux. In marketing terms, the top end, aspirational wines create a positive ‘halo’ over the rest of the wines from the region. In the UK we see the real opportunity for Bordeaux in £5 - £15 wines. In order to command this price premium, Bordeaux average price is currently 30% higher than the average UK still light wine price, image is critical. Bordeaux's top end provides this much needed image factor.

‘But in supermarkets, the cost of display is prohibitively expensive for smaller producers such as most of those from Bordeaux and has often been the domain of large brands. However, assistance from the CIVB and increasingly other generic bodies, means smaller brands and products can benefit from the huge sales surge display can deliver. We are now in our third year of funding display at major supermarkets, at key times on behalf of a significant range of Bordeaux wines (around 90 wines in 2007). Participating wines are then responsible for funding the price discount.’

In UK supermarkets, Bordeaux has seen two years of increased sales, standing at +11% in volume. From January to August 2006, there was a rise of  +5% in volume and +8% in value. The average selling price has gone from £4.87 at the start of 2007 to £5.22 today. This seems to be the most likely scenario for the future of Bordeaux. The sub 5 euro wines will cease to have a market, while the rest – either mid range or premium – have a real opportunity to prosper. Promotions such as 100 Everyday Bordeaux has a real opportunity to cement this idea.

Progression of sales from 2006/2007 per appellation
Pomerol, Saint Emilion and Fronsac +3%
Medoc and Graves +2%
Les Cotes -4%
AOC Bordeaux Rouges -6%
AOC Bordeaux Superieur -5%
Bordeaux whites +2%
Bordeaux moelleux + 7%
Bordeaux liquoreux +2%
(source CIVB: IRI France)

Top Bordeaux Brands
Mouton Cadet 1.3 million cases
Malesan, Castel – 1.06 million cases
Baron de Lestac, Castel, 750,000 cases (no 1 in terms of growth)
Dourthe No 1  150,000 cases
Marquis de Chasse, Ginestet, 125,000
Yvon Mau Premius Exigence, 75,000 cases
Calvet Reserve 85,000 cases (+50% from 2006, and the majority of that in the UK market)
Sirius by Maison Sichel – 80,000 cases
Mascaron par Ginestet, 25,000 cases (higher quality brand)
Michel Lynch by Jean Michel Cazes