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Millésima’s Futures Business Helps Lead Bordeaux’s Resurgence In The U.S. Market

July 21, 2017

While the Bordeaux futures trade historically has been aimed at retailers, New York-based negoçiant and merchant Millésima USA has seen substantial growth in direct-to-consumer futures since entering the U.S. market in 2009.

Hortense Bernard, general manager for Millésima USA, tells SND that the company sold about 2,600 cases of futures last year, with sales doubling each year since 2014. “It was hard to convince a new generation to buy futures,” she says. “But now we’re seeing more interest. I think there’s an increasing diversification among futures buyers.”

Bernard notes that U.S. futures buyers tend to fall into one of three categories: The customer who simply wants wines to enjoy; the investor seeking prestigious, high-scoring labels to eventually resell; and the collector looking to lay down wines for years.

Millésima uses an email alert system that allows customers to buy futures as soon as they’re announced in Bordeaux. The company’s specialty is large-format bottles. In the past, according to Bernard, six-liter bottles were the most popular large format, but now 12-, 15- and 18-liters are seeing increased sales as well. “We’re willing to make large formats work,” says Bernard. “We buy a percentage of a vineyard’s wines and allow our customers to determine how we have it bottled.” In addition to its negoçiant business, the company also operates a retail store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Millésima became a pioneer in direct-to-consumer futures sales when Bernard’s father, Patrick Bernard, established the company in Bordeaux in 1988. At the time, that consumer-focused approach was rare, and it gave the company a unique position in the market. Today, Millésima is among the world’s five largest futures buyers, and a top mail order wine merchant in Europe, maintaining more than 2.5 million bottles in its cellars in Bordeaux. With U.S. sales growing strongly from a small base, Bernard expects Millésima to continue carving out a niche, helping to lead Bordeaux’s resurgence in the coming years.—Shane English

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