How well do Millennials or Gen Z consumers know their Bordeaux? It’s questionable. You would be hard pressed to find many folks in the industry who think newer LDA drinkers can describe the difference between Left and Right Bank. Moreover, the long-rising prices of Bordeaux present another blockade that unintentionally deters younger customers.
There is also the spirits problem. Newer consumers driving alcohol trends increasingly reach for high-end bourbon or tequila — or RTDs. Or they prefer low-proof beer, and nonalcoholic options. Easy, trendy, low-cal, healthy, convenient. Unfortunately, none of these key descriptors necessarily apply to Bordeaux.
That is why the historic producer Maison Bouey has recently launched a rebranding effort. This Médoc mainstay can trace its roots back many generations to 1821. With new labels and bottlings focused on value and varietal, Maison Bouey now aims to draw in younger customers who may feel confused or intimidated by Bordeaux.
For example, the 2020 Famille Bouey Oh La Vache! This $12.99 Bordeaux red sports a label with mismatched lettering and stern-faced cows. In a category where branding is everything, it’s certainly eye-catching. “Oh La Vache!” loosely translates to “Holy cow,” or a casual expression of surprise. Perhaps this will be the consumer response when they reach the register.
“Younger drinkers think Bordeaux is unobtainable because of the price,” says Daley Brennan, Maison Bouey export manager, during a recent tasting in New York City. “This aims to solve that. Our question was: How can we make Bordeaux accessible again, democratized again?”
Oh La Vache! is a Bordeaux red that you can chill. At 85% merlot, 15% cabernet sauvignon, it drinks like a Beaujolais: fresh and easy. Loads of ripe red fruit — strawberries, blackberries and cherries — coupled with that SRP, make this Bordeaux an everyday drinker. Democratized, indeed.
The gameplan for younger consumers continues with a trio of varietal-focused wines at or around the same price point: Famille Bouey Cuvée 11, 20 and 58.
Each of those numbers holds historical significance for the company. 11 is the number of hectares first acquired by Jean Bouey in 1821. 20 reflects 2020, the year that the latest generation of the Bouey family joined the business. And 58 is a nod to 1958, when Roger Bouey founded the merchant business Maison Bouey.
Labels that celebrate a brand’s history are as popular as ever in America right now. (See: Every new whiskey digging up an ancient bootlegger, colonel, or grist mill.) But in a country where bourbon-obsessed consumers typically read numbers as age statements, newer wine consumers might find these labels confusing. Just a thought.
Otherwise, these three wines are as straightforward as can be. Easy-to-read labels ditch the chateau sketches and loopy cursive in favor of simple text and embossed paper. “We can’t just worry about what other Bordeaux wineries are doing; we have to worry about what all wineries are doing,” says Brennan.
The 2019 vintage of Cuvée 11 is 100% merlot; the 2020 Cuvée 20 is 100% cabernet sauvignon. Both are $12.99. The merlot, in particular, represents superb value at this price point. Black cherries and plums balanced perfectly with tannins — a dark, subtle delight that I returned to all night.
The 2019 Cuvée 58 is 80% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon. Fruit here comes from higher-end vineyards than the 11 and 20. Cuvée 58 is a complexity of rich, ripe fruit, powered along by smooth tannins. It’s an excellent buy at $14.99.
Also in the portfolio are the newly launched Famille Bouey Les Parcelles No. 8 ($19.99) and Maison Blanche Bordeaux Rouge ($16.99). Maison Bouey can produce high-quality wines at these price points thanks to economy of scale. “The idea is for somms to be able to educate their client base in a more affordable way,” Brennan says.
Sustainable products matter a lot to Millennials and (especially) Gen Z. This is not necessarily why Maison Bouey made all these bottles out of recycled glass, labels and corks, and maintains certified environmental standards across its vineyards. But eco-conscious efforts certainly do not hurt the goal of connecting with younger consumers.
Maison Bouey also has a 100% sauvignon blanc arriving in the near future, plus a rosé whose label was a colorful collaboration with the American color company Pantone. Perhaps Bordeaux can be “trendy” after all.