Selling wines is not an easy task

It's not enough to make good wine - you have to sell it too, and that's not easy.

It's not enough to make good wine - you have to sell it too, and that's not easy.

Earlier this year I wrote about Bertrand Lepoittevin-Dubost who makes very fine wines indeed. A former lawyer, he had to borrow from the bank to buy Chateau le Bloy near Bergerac.

It was, he admits, a huge risk, especially with a family of three young children. I visited him again recently. He was honest enough to tell me that if he'd known before just how difficult it would be to make ends meet, he might not have taken the plunge to fulfil a lifelong ambition to be a winemaker.

His 2005s are the best wines he's yet made. His rosé is quite simply the most delicious of its style (deep-coloured like a Bordeaux clairet) that I've ever tasted - by some distance - and a chance meeting with top chef Michel Roux's head sommelier has brought his wines to the great man's attention.

Roux, who recognises a good thing when he sniffs it, was immediately captivated by Bertrand's best dry white and he's agreed to buy that and another wine for his three Michelin-star Waterside Inn at Bray in Berkshire. A leading London specialist wine shop, The Winery, has also agreed to buy several wines.

Things are definitely looking up for Bertrand, but he'll have to sell an awful lot more if he's going to begin to make any kind of profit this year.

It takes time, he now realises, to build up a client base, and when there's only you to do it, look after the vines, make the wine and do all the mountain of paperwork the various authorities demand, there aren't many hours left to dash around promoting your fare.

Those neighbours who've have been making wine for generations may have it a bit easier, and those with bigger estates can even sometimes afford to employ someone to look after sales. But even then, success is not guaranteed, as Jean-Marie and Martine Valette of Château Roque-Peyre have found.

Their wine is very good too and their sales person, Lidwine Moreno, is endlessly and engagingly enthusiastic about the wine she sells. But despite regular visits to British trade fairs, she finds the UK market hard to crack.

One way of selling a few boxes of wine is to take a stall at one (or several) of the fantastic country markets that are so much a part of French life. Better still, a few places hold mini-wine fairs at the end of the summer to attract tourists and locals alike. But Bertrand Lepoittevin-Dubost has found this hard going.

Some people are born market traders; Bertrand isn't. Rather diffident, and quietly spoken, I suspect that his sales pitch would get pretty short shrift from the likes of Sir Alan Sugar.

David Drussé, who makes attractively affordable reds at St Nicholas de Bourgueil in the Loire Valley, is a much more natural stall-holder and happily takes to the road for a round of late summer village wine fairs.

His cheery style quickly attracts groups of appreciative tasters, most of whom are more than happy to buy a bottle or two. I was so taken (with his wines, of course) that I bought six.

There's no doubt that well-run big operations have the greatest chance of selling significant quantities to the likes of the supermarkets - in France as well as over here. An easily-remembered brand name can help too.

This is where even the most imaginative, quality-minded French co-ops still struggle to compete with the likes of Jacob's Creek. But if any is likely to succeed (by building on an already great reputation for quality, dependability and tempting prices) it's the dynamic south-western co-op based at St Mont, "les Producteurs de Plaimont".

Led by the tireless André Duboscq, something of a wine-making genius, their hard work over several decades is now rewarded by great sales figures. I warmly recommend everything they make, not least my wine of the week and corking recipe suggestion.

Wine of the Week

Pujalet, Vin de Pays du Gers, 2005, Waitrose £3.99.

A fruity dry white from south-west France with a creamy, lemon, peachy, rather floral smell and taste. It's wonderful value and a tribute to the wine-making genius of André Dubosc. Try it with salads, fish or white meat.


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