Cos d’Estournel: I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore
Post by Alex Shaw | April 4th, 2011
During En Primeurs, Bordeaux is extremely busy (picture restaurants with people spilling out the doors and cars bumper to bumper on the roads), and appointments are an absolute must. In fact, as many as a thousand or more visit requests may have to be denied by a prominent chateau, as Cos d’Estournel director Jean-Guillaume Prats told us on Monday. Luckily, we made the cut.
Entering the Cos d’Estournel tasting room, which is like no other in Bordeaux, you might think you were entering the lobby of a swank midtown Manhattan hotel. Dark stone floors and walls, red carpets, high tables for tasting, complete with back lighting, and soft music filling the spacious hall. The wines—Goulee, Pagodes de Estournel and Cos d’Estournel—were big and impressively structured, certainly well received by the JJ Buckley team, but we were probably most overwhelmed by the tasting room. For lack of a better word, it is just….cool.
Following the tasting, we retired to a cozy room for small bites and a magnum of Krug (there it is again, the magical Champagne). We were soon greeted by Prats, an incredibly well-spoken and warm individual, and taken to lunch, which was much needed after a morning of tasting. He discussed the intricacies of directing a massive 40,000 case brand such as Cos d’Estournel—how they manage demand from various markets, stay on top of image and pricing and, most important to us, how they choose partners to work with in each market. Prats explained that even with the rise in importance of the Asian market, America remains vital. The key to maintaining their standing as one of the core Bordeaux chateaux in the U.S. is not to go after every account but to choose the proper 20 or so key retail partners. Some brands may want to be everywhere; Cos d’Estournel wants to be in the right places.
Another key to their success is knowledge—of their customers, markets and the key players. This is not outsourced to a marketing firm but handled entirely in-house, with Prats himself traveling worldwide to both extend and manage the image of Cos d’Estournel first hand. He needs to know how Cos d’Estournel is being handled in each market, what the competition is doing right and wrong, and what to do to maintain Cos d’Estournel’s position as one of the most recognizable and important Bordeaux wines throughout the world.
It was impressive to see the care and passion Prats has for Cos d’Estournel, and it was encouraging for the JJ Buckley team to know that in a market the size of the U.S., we have become (and continue to be) a chosen long-term partner with a chateau as grand and historic as Cos d’Estournel. While some retailers may dabble in Bordeaux, sending a team of 12 here for the week shows our commitment to the wines and future of Bordeaux, for us and for our customers. And a lunch like this confirms for us that this commitment is the right thing to do.