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'Fighting back' - by Jack Hibberd

Published:  23 July, 2008

It has become one of wine's most discussed topics - seminar after seminar, article after article and speech after speech have tried to tackle the subject of why France, still the second-biggest supplier to the UK market, has failed to produce hard' brands that can compete with the New World's branded wine juggernauts.

Blason de Bourgogne is rightly lauded as a model of how you can take a French region steeped in history and tradition - in this case Burgundy - and make it accessible to UK consumers without dumbing down. Guy Young, managing director of UK distributor HwCg, says sales across the

14 wines on offer are running at 110,000 9-litre cases a year at present - making it the number one selling brand in terms of volume and value in the over-6 category - with the brand still in growth. And all at an average price of 6.50. When we launched we were fairly bullish and gave ourselves an ambitious, but we felt achievable, target of 100,000 cases in the UK. The whole idea was driven out of the UK and we took a long time getting the right feedback for buyers and consumers. We're very proud of what we have done and now we are in discussions about where the brand would go with our French partners. We are definitely looking at introducing some "halo" wines, we don't have grand cru Chablis yet, for example,' says Young.

And the secret behind the success? You have to emphasise the diversity of the offer. You are doing absolutely the wrong thing if you blindly follow the New World. It's about re-enforcing the credentials that the consumer already has for French wine and making it easier to understand.'