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Côtes de Bordeaux Emerges As Entry Point For Bordeaux Drinkers In The U.S. Market

July 7, 2017

After years of difficulty, Bordeaux wines are back on the rise in the U.S. market—increasing 6% to 2.1 million cases in 2016, according to Impact Databank—and accessibly-priced offerings retailing from $10-$20 a bottle are making inroads as an entryway to the prestigious French category for younger consumers. Among the appellations driving gains at Bordeaux’s entry level is the Côtes de Bordeaux, whose U.S. sales have increased by nearly 60% over the past five years, to about 125,000 cases.

“The U.S. is a mature market, but consumers are looking for discovery wines, and that’s how we’re positioning Côtes de Bordeaux,” says Patricia Zabalza, the appellation’s director. “We think of it as ‘Bordeaux in jeans.’ Five years ago the U.S. comprised 4% of our exports—now it’s at 10%. We expect to continue growing by about 10% in the U.S. market this year.”

Formed in 2009, the Côtes de Bordeaux is made up of five sub-appellations: Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs and newcomer Sainte-Foy, which joined the group late last year. Blaye, located in the north of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, accounts for about half of the collective’s 5.6-million-case production, but Cadillac and Castillon have been especially successful in the U.S. Castillon benefits from its location adjacent to St. Emilion, many of whose producers are also active in Castillon itself. Red blends—largely based on Merlot—are predominant across each of the sub-appellations, although Blaye, Francs and Sainte-Foy also produce dry whites made from Bordeaux’s classic Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon varietals.

While the Côtes de Bordeaux has enjoyed strong progress from a small base in its short history—carving out a presence mainly in key East Coast markets like Boston and New York—Zabalza notes that plenty of challenges remain. Among them, the appellation’s 1,000 mostly family-owned vintners must navigate the crowded and competitive U.S. imported wine category and enhance their marketing activities while also maintaining winery operations back home. Still, global as well as U.S. progress is ongoing—the Côtes de Bordeaux’s exports are now 20% of total sales, up from 10% eight years ago—and with accessible Bordeaux bottlings gaining traction in the U.S., that expansion seems likely to continue. —Daniel Marsteller

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