Anything But...Bordeaux?

William Whelan II |

Spend a day walking around New York City, and you’re bound to scratch your head at least once or twice when trying to figure out why any one millennial or another is wearing what they’re wearing. Fashion trends, music trends, technological trends…half of them make no sense anymore.

Breaking News: Get off my lawn, please. 

In all seriousness, a new generation of young adults, young creatives, and young drinkers have come of age and they’re sharing their influences with the world. And no, it’s not all bad.

But something we’ve noticed in the wine business is that fewer and fewer young folks are buying Bordeaux. Even as the United States summits to the top of worldwide purchasing power, the wines from one of the world’s most treasured regions have yet to gain traction in the younger demographics. In fact, Bordeaux has slowly fallen out of favor with Americans in general. Where it was once ABC, Anything But Cabernet, it’s become ABB, Anything But Bordeaux.

Many of Bordeaux’s sales are done en primeurs, meaning that they are sold on futures. Once the vintage is harvested, buyers make their purchases for when the wines are eventually released, years down the road. This has long been the most affordable way to obtain some of the most prestigious wine in Bordeaux. Slowly, the participation of Americans in this practice has declined.

Across the pond and amongst Bordeaux wineries, the 2014 vintage was supposed to reverse the trend because of several factors. Not only is the vintage considered to be the best since 2010, but the dollar has gained traction when put up against the euro, affording Americans more buying power than in recent years. Add to the fact that, despite higher prices from the Chateaus, American stores are selling the 2014s for less than the weaker vintages that preceded them, and the situation becomes even more confusing for the French.

Here at home, it’s not incredibly difficult to spot reasons for the ABB era. 

Finding ways to market a wine region to the American public will always be of paramount importance. This new generation is ripe with young money, heavily influenced by the advancements of the Tech industry, and that money has watched celebrities get more and more involved with wine in Napa Valley and Provence. The creative label designs and affordable prices—not to mention, the improving quality—of wines from Spain and South America continue to catch the eyes of customers in retail shops, while the farm-to-table movement has encouraged this generation of conscious shoppers to support small, local wineries.

Quite frankly, the pristine Chateaus of Bordeaux are not, in any way, fashionable to millennials; often, they’re seen as snooty, and emblematic of wine’s highbrow culture.

While speaking to Wine Spectator Magazine about this very issue last month, Ralph Sands (senior wine specialist, K&L Wines in California) shared this sentiment.

“Bordeaux needs to reboot and seriously energize and upgrade the little marketing that they do here in America to attract new young buyers before it’s too late,” he said.

Another factor in all of this is, most consumers do not have cellars to age these en primeur wines. Thus, they’re looking for fine wine, at a fair price—generally under $20—that they can open the same night as they bought it. For Bordeaux, this has meant that some of the less historically prestigious Chateaus have stepped up their game, providing just that. Here in 2015, it isn’t hard to find a full, sophisticated, and delicious Bordeaux for around $15.

Here in Brooklyn, we’re proud to have those wines on our shelves and to share them with others. If Bordeaux is to once again become a player in the American wine industry, evolution is needed.