I wondering if the cost of producing the wine means that larger producers prevail? OR are there middlemen who do the bottling and the marketing and the owners of the vinyards are just left to produce the wine. Maybe this is too big a subject for this bog?
wow - what a subject!
there are certainly economies of scale in the industry - from fully utilising labour and equipment in the vineyard and winery all the way through to storage. But it depends what you mean by prevail ?
bottling is a mix of the with their own lines and those who hire in the mobile bottling lorry to undertake 2/3 days bottling of a vintage.
marketing - big variances from those who do everything…social media allows greater reach and interaction, through those who allow the local / regional “growers association” (like CIVB) to do their marketing to those who are parts of v.large corporates with marketing depts and agencies lapping at their heels (LVMH, Channel etc)
Owners left to produce the wine…some owners rarely visit…its just business !
A great topic for discussion, thanks!
This Grapevine category is for longer blog posts, whereas I think this is more of a chat/debate so I’ll move this to drinks chat for now.
There are many small family owned and run wineries with their own vineyards in both famous areas, such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne where the owners taned the vines, make and sell the wines.
Many are members of Vignerons Indépendants which organise large wine fairs across France where members take stands to meet the public and sell their wines.
Others sell their wines at the many markets. I’ve bought wines from the owners of small Bordeaux chateaux at the Sunday farmers market on Bordeaux’s quayside.
Then there are vineyard owners who sell their grapes to co-operatives or middlemen (negociants) who make and bottle the wine under a brand name, such as Mouton Cadet in Bordeaux, Nicholas Feuillate in Champagne, Bouchard in Burgundy…
Big companies also own vineyards and make wine, some have been in the business a long time, others are more famous for their main business, such as insurance giant AXA who also own wine estates in France (including Ch Pichon-Baron, a Bdx 2nd growth) and other countries.
Pearson, former owners of the FT, used to own Chateau Latour…
Whenever I hear of an individual or a company buying a famous brand, I’m suspicious. My first question is whether the new owner will interfere with the running of the business. A new boss will want to make an impact, most notably on increasing profits, which translates into cutting staff numbers. They all do it no matter what the business.
But wine is different. We might not like the French. But they’ve got it right. They don’t think about the next 20-30 years. They think in terms of the next 500+ years. For them, it’s a peasant culture that drifts along for ever. The Prairie style of farming works well for huge agricultural combines in America. But when I visualize French wine growing, I imagine a medieval system of strip farming introduced (to England) by the Normans.
So if a new owner comes along, keep things as they are. Change nothing. Most importantly, keep US business school economics out of it. That’s my opinion!
Well maybe it was that way until the second half of the 19th Century, but it all changed after 1862 when M. Borty in the Rhone planted cuttings he’d been sent from New York.
The straight lines of vines we see today are because all vineyards had to be replanted and as tractors had come into use about the same time, the straight lines with spaces between rows suited mechanisation.
might find that French inheritance law has more to do with the “medieval strip farming” than any common sense long term approach
I would think that France has a great variety of wine producers including some big firms who will sell to the supermarket chains, negociants, co-operatives, family concerns and some grape growers who sell their grapes for someone else to vinify.
My guess is that the New World often has a greater concentration of big companies. Take Australia for example where Treasury (ex-Fosters), Accolade (owned by US PE firm Carlyle) and Casella control a very large proportion of total production (depending whether one counts by value, vineyard acreage or volume).