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Sept. 29, 2021

Getting Inside Bordeaux w/ Jane Anson, janeanson.com

Getting Inside Bordeaux w/ Jane Anson, janeanson.com

Accidentally filling the big shoes of Michael Broadbent and Steven Spurrier, Jane Anson, wine critic, author of Inside Bordeaux, founder of janeanson.com, and former Bordeaux correspondent for Decanter for nearly 20 years, is one of the world’s foremost e


Accidentally filling the big shoes of Michael Broadbent and Steven Spurrier, Jane Anson, wine critic, author of Inside Bordeaux, founder of janeanson.com, and former Bordeaux correspondent for Decanter for nearly 20 years, is one of the world’s foremost experts on the wines, history, and region of Bordeaux.  Having lived in Bordeaux since 2003, Jane shares her deep insights into how Bordeaux became as famous as it is, how the systems of La Place de Bordeaux and En Primeur work, and the complex terroir of the region.  She gives us insight into the content of janeanson.com and how it will be a unique look into Bordeaux, focus on the drinkability of the wines, and many of the unique features to be released. 

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Jane’s background
    • Living in Bordeaux since 2003, she thought she’d only be there for 1-2 years
    • Journalist background
    • Decanter’s Bordeaux correspondent for nearly 20 years, wrote a weekly column since 2014, the sole Bordeaux wine critic since the 2016 vintage
    • She took a tasting aptitude class at the enology school in Bordeaux
    • She chose Bordeaux because it’s still a big city (lived in London before), 2 hours from the Spanish border, 2 hours from Paris
  • Janeanson.com
    • Can be accessed by inside-bordeaux.com or janeanson.com
    • Saw a gap in the market for a website specializing in Bordeaux vs. ~4-5 for Burgundy
    • Value proposition
      • No outside investment, no advertising
      • Focus on drinkability
      • Covers all wines that sell through La Place de Bordeaux (including the ~90 wines that are not Bordeaux wines)
      • Regular verticals, en primeur, in bottle reports
      • Two weeks of trips during the year
        • One week - for high-end collectors
        • One week - “free” aimed at young sommeliers, people that want to work in the wine trade to showcase the dynamic side of Bordeaux
    • Launch specials
      • a translation of memoirs of a WWII soldier in Bordeaux
      • Vertical of tiny producer LaFleur Saint-Jean - lies in between Lafleur, Lafleur Petrus, and Petrus in Pomerol only sells direct, sells out immediately, had never done a vertical before
    • 1% for the Planet - 1% of revenue goes towards environmental charities
  • Bordeaux’s rise and fall
    • Key advantages
      • A port city, far enough inland to be a safe port
      • 12th century - duchy of the English crown, wines were sold in the London market
      • The system of chateaux, merchants, negociants was built for export
      • Terroir is very complex (which may be why it’s not talked about much), e.g., of the 61 wines in the 1855 Medoc classification, all of them are on two specific gravel terraces (#3 & 4) of the six terraces of the Medoc
        • Mostly clay underneath with gravel on top
        • Lots of micro terroirs
        • St Emilion - has pure limestone, clay, and gravel
    • Issues that have hurt Bordeaux
      • Every vintage is not great, though Bordelais often say that
      • Frustrate people based on the prices they ask (e.g., 2009/2010 vintages - many people who bought lost money)
  • La Place de Bordeaux
    • Business to business, sell to merchants that sell to consumers
    • Virtual marketplace - enables access to 10,000 clients globally
    • Includes chateaux, brokers, and negociants
    • Sells wine into every level of the food chain - has specialists for on-trade, off-trade, hotels, corner shops, supermarkets, etc.…
    • It doesn’t build your brand but makes sure it gets everywhere
    • Good at giving the illusion of scarcity
    • Can use La Place for specific markets - La Place has expertise in the Asian markets (e.g., China, Vietnam, Japan)
    • Very rare to have exclusivity for negociants
    • Downsides of La Place
      • Creates a very competitive environment - low-end wines compete with each other
      • Protects Bordeaux well; merchants need to buy in bad years to get allocations in good years
      • No direct contact with consumers for wineries
      • Less effective for small guys that aren’t established brands
    • Non-Bordeaux wines selling on La Place
      • Gone from nothing to 60 wines five years ago to 90 wines in 2021
      • Provides access to global markets - shows wines next to the great wines of Bordeaux
      • Opus One - the 2nd non-Bordeaux wine on La Place (after Almaviva), sold wines since 2004, opened an office in Bordeaux
        • Forced negociants to share client lists (created more transparency)
      • 1st Champagne just joined - Clos des Goisses (Philipponnat) - only 600 bottles of 1996 late release
      • No Burgundy producers (not enough volume, no need for it, and the rivalry between Burgundy and Bordeaux)
      • Barriers to joining La Place - need enough volume to get everywhere, need to do your own brand-building work, and meeting customers
      • An increase in overseas wines has hurt smaller Bordeaux estates -> negociants have limited budgets and drop them
  • Marketing Bordeaux - unlikely to be another 1855 like classification, St Emilion’s classification every ten years is constantly litigated, some marketing organizations: 
    • Pomerol Seduction - 8-10 Pomerol estates that band together
    • Bordeaux Oxygen - young producers, targeting younger audiences, no longer active
  • En Primeur
    • Due to export focus, Bordeaux always had samples shipped off overseas
    • From the early 1980s, Parker injected excitement into En Primeur system
    • People used to make money, and now they are often better off waiting until wines are in bottle with certain exceptions (e.g., tiny production Pomerols)
    • No longer has the same sense of urgency
    • Tranche system - release a small amount of wine at one price, then release more later at higher prices
    • E.g., 2010 1st growths came out at €600/bottle (these people made money), final tranche at €1,200/bottle (these people lost money) -> destroyed interest in en primeur in the Chinese market
    • non-Bordeaux wines price more consistently than Bordeaux wines
    • Latour dropping out of en primeur
      • Said they wanted to store wines and release them when best for consumers
      • Still sold to negociants / La Place
      • Don’t1980’s know if this has worked better or not
    • Chateau Palmer - sells 50% en primeur, 50% ten years later
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