Big Dossier: Is luxury in Bordeaux living its last hours?
Experience of luxury in large houses, rich gastronomic heritage, New Aquitaine is not lacking in attractions. Since 1996, the city of Bordeaux has been arguing to launch an ambitious urban planning project, quick to welcome ecosystems of excellence, and attract the great fortunes of this world…
I. Large families, between lack of renewal and letting go
Telephone interview with Jean-Pierre GRENIER, founder of Novaltess
Ⅱ. Revisiting luxury in Bordeaux: between innovation and quality
Ⅲ. Bordeaux luxury at the heart of tourist aspirations
Interview with Hubert BIARD, associate lawyer at CVS Lawyer
Interview with Jean-Pierre BERNARDET, Bernardet’s ceo
The great New Aquitaine Region is, in fact, traditionally the cradle of a certain French elegance, a luxurious and discreet way of life, far from the “bling-bling”, out of sight, in the beautiful castles where Bordeaux wines delight delicate palates. In recent years, however, the image of a certain obsolescence, of a difficulty in reinventing itself, in a world in motion is spreading.
Paradoxically, Bordeaux’s worldwide reputation also seems to be in the image of an old France, of excellence, certainly, but which is struggling to reinvent itself, especially in the viti/vini field.
Large families, between lack of renewal and letting go
It is in the wine sector that public opinion is struggling to regain a certain taste for modernity, from the renewal of luxury to Bordeaux. At issue is increased competition from a contracting internal and external market.
At the last Vinexpo show last May, Bordeaux’s appeal as the wine capital was, once again, no longer to be demonstrated. The wines AOC Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior are indeed boosted by the external market and contribute to the influence of Bordeaux wines as evidenced by the aura of Vinexpo, especially in China. With more than 59,000 hectares throughout the Bordeaux vineyard, AOC Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior wines allow a high taste quality, with a relatively moderate cost compared to Burgundy, for example.
However, while Gironde wines generally enjoy good visibility outside our borders, not all benefit from a strong foothold in the domestic market, especially Aquitain. Thus, the wines of controlled appellation of the Bordeaux region suffer from a lack of visibility on the Bordeaux territory. As such, the AOC Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior union have made a point: catering professionals offer little of these wines on their menu in the girondin territory.
Based on this observation, the union of AOC Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior organized the first edition of the “Halles de l’AOC”, located at 7 rue du Palais Gallien this summer. On the program, tastings and personalized training for players in the world of wine.
The aim was to present the strengths of the terroir, while raising awareness of a reasoned and local consumption, eco-citizen. Beyond that, the aim is to energize Bordeaux’s somewhat ageing image among local consumers.
The example of wine highlights the fact that the know-how of excellence in New Aquitaine is no longer to be demonstrated and is recognized around the world. The “Cuir, luxury, textile and crafts” sector, for example, is a sector of regional luxury activity highlighted during the 2nd edition of the “Rendez-vous of excellence in New Aquitaine” This is particularly the case with Novaltess, which, aware of the need for luxury to reinvent itself and to innovate, shares its strategy.
Launched in 2018, the annual meetings of the sector allow an exchange between professionals in the sector in order to create synergy and a collective dynamic. The sector represents 3,900 employees in New Aquitaine for “leather and shoes”, 1,500 employees for textiles and 2,400 employees for clothing.
Telephone interview with Jean-Pierre GRENIER, founder of Novaltess
According to Jean-Pierre GRENIER, founder of Novaltess, the company’s specificity is its CSR approach: it is the only French ceramics company to have published the carbon cost of its materials, which are eco-designed. Novaltess offers luxurious customizable mosaic for private individuals, luxury hotels for wall decorations and also for castles that develop wine tourism.
Among its innovations, “the concept of a customizable mosaic ready to pose” required six years of research that resulted in the creation of a unique value offer in Europe, protected by patents of inventions. Novaltess technology allows to sublimate photographic or pictorial works in mosaic of art, thus becoming unique, timeless, unalterable decorations.
Cutting-edge technologies in the service of a thousand-year-old art.
From the point of view of luxury, the Bordeaux economy must capitalise on the “made in Bordeaux”. Indeed, for the time being, territorial marketing insists more on the reception of the Bordeaux region and its quality of life and much less on the image of luxury that the name Bordeaux spontaneously evokes.
For Novaltess and as part of its positioning the luxury ceramics sector, there is real added value in informing our distributors and the end user that “our products are made not in France but in Bordeaux”.
Following a career in the agri-food sector and in particular in the restaurant sector, Jean-Pierre Grenier was able to see the attraction that “Bordeaux” provided abroad.
Luxury in Bordeaux is not enough a place of positive synergies and momentum.
Bordeaux does not sufficiently grasp this issue of luxury that would energize the entire territory. “The Bordeaux economy from the point of view of luxury still lives on its gains”: for the wine trades it is sad to note that the Vinexpo show, for lack of dynamism and innovation, has lost a lot in attractiveness and attendance with respect to other competing events in Germany for example.
There is, however, a beginning of awareness, which translates for example by the launch of the “Cluster Superyachts Refit in Bordeaux” whose objective is to carry out maintenance operations and luxurious re-arrangements. This initiative, led by a winning team, is very happy even though it is easy to see that this goal could have been set long before.
The companies concerned will take this opportunity to communicate about their high-end services, a discourse that should be more widely relayed by institutions whose interest is to support the influence of Bordeaux while contributing to the maintenance or even the development of highly skilled, better-paying jobs. Novaltes mosaics have a level of refinement as it leads to a high-end positioning, so it is only natural that our frescoes can be made for such projects,
As such, the luxury business services of New Aquitaine have identified Novaltess as an integral part of luxury businesses. Thanks to the recent development of a true disruptive technology, Novaltess has just improved its offer, which is now targeting a new clientele in the “Luxury Retail” business.
The Saint Gobain Group’s desire to improve its offer through “high-end showrooms” has enabled the recent acquisition of this unique technology. However, where the deployment of mid-range products can be fairly rapid, luxury companies need ambitious and long-term support.
For Novaltess or other companies that have a high-end positioning and luxurious products to present, he is very happy to be able to display the “made in Bordeaux”, however this argument carries in him the fault that comes from his very old notoriety.
Tradition must no longer be the breeding ground for immobility.
Revisiting luxury in Bordeaux: between innovation and quality
If there is one area where bordeaux-based luxury awakens the taste buds, it’s in gastronomy. The great local speciality, fluted, is appreciated by all tourists in France and abroad, but this is not the only local product that has the wind in its sails. The Bernard Magrez Institute, the Fourth Wall and the Silver Press are among the establishments popular with foreigners, who come mainly to appreciate the wineries.
Castles or shops of fine products such as coffee, wine or chocolate put the spotlight on the taste. Like the Mademoiselle de Margaux chocolate factory, hasnaâ Chocolats also offers luxury chocolate, whose appellations are reminiscent of those of the greatest wines: “Grands Crus” and whose knowledge of cocoa is based on a work of passion and expertise. Indeed, the aim is to be able to work the raw material while respecting its properties and aromas. These exceptional products are the pride of Bordeaux gastronomy and are very attractive in France and abroad.
In order to stand out, the key is to be able to remain original, while offering products in which the customer finds himself. Thanks to the respectful work of cocoa beans, Mademoiselle de Margaux has been able to showcase her know-how and the quality of her achievements. Chocolate is one of the favourite foods of the French, widely consumed all year round with peaks during the holidays such as Easter or during the end of the year.
The Mademoiselle de Margaux brand understands this and has just opened its first Bordeaux boutique. Founded in 1969 by Charles SPRENGNETHER, and run by the company LOC MARIA BISCUITS since February 2017, the chocolate factory that became Mademoiselle de Margaux in 2005 has always been installed in Margaux, in the Médoc, a wine mecca where some of the world’s greatest wines are grown and designed. This first historic establishment became the brand’s production site. Since December 2017, noting even greater market potential than in Margaux, the brand has chosen to set up shop on Rue des Remparts, close to the Town Hall.
The shop has a particularly authentic character, located in one of the towers of the ramparts, with an atypical wooden storefront, close to the other food shops that it complements with gusto. Indeed, beyond a sweet product appreciated by a majority of people, chocolate is today considered intrinsic to the spirit of luxury, refined and gastronomic. The range of products designed and offered by Mademoiselle de Margaux is placed in a superior positioning, of unparalleled quality and a search for unique flavour blends.
The craftsmen-artists of the brand work only quality raw materials that are the hallmark of Made In France. Indeed, the quality is appreciated by Bordeaux but also by foreigners who are looking for luxury products that are derived from French know-how. Thus, the Pearls of the Médoc, the Guinettes and the Sarments du Médoc, originally proposed by Charles Sprengnether and then preserved by Mademoiselle de Margaux, sold easily in France and abroad. The brand actually generates 10-15% of its export sales.
Through demand and quality, in an environment where customers are increasingly looking at product design and respect for nature and raw materials, Bordeaux’s gastronomic and luxurious brands are doing everything possible to reinvent their craft in order to continue to surprise and attract. Coming from all over the world for Bordeaux’s wealth and know-how, customers appreciate products such as chocolate, which is growing and meeting a growing demand. Price is no longer a decisive element for customers looking for the best product, the highest quality, the most artisanal confection possible. Chocolate becomes art, just pass the Larnicol brand to discover the creations on display to understand it…
Bordeaux luxury at the heart of tourist aspirations
Founded some thirty years ago, Luxury Hotelschool Paris is the world’s first luxury hotel school. It offers two English university degrees: the Bachelor and the Master of Science in International Tourism and Hospitality Management. The hotel school chose the city of Bordeaux for the study trip of the Master’s students in order to study the marketing plan of the city around the theme “Field Trip”.
Indeed, the city of Bordeaux is a typical example of a city that has been able to develop its infrastructure and its environment with a major urban project started in 1996.
This second edition was an opportunity to address the themes of “Design, know-how and innovation”. The students had the opportunity to experience the fine cuisine of the city and visit places of great Bordeaux luxury: University courses in the salons of the Intercontinental Bordeaux; A visit and lunch at the Placentia Hotel, a historic restaurant in Saint-Emilion with two Michelin stars, as well as a tour of the city and the Château Angélus estate; A dinner at the “Fourth Wall”, Philippe Etchebest’s restaurant; A visit to the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux and the Château Les Carnes Haut-Brion in Pessac.
The New Aquitaine region shines abroad by the luxurious places and activities it offers. Many luxury hotels offer stunning views, a total change of scenery, gastronomy and unrivalled wine therapy: In 2018, the Intercontinental Bordeaux, located opposite the Opera House, was voted the best hotel in France by the World Travel Awards. The 5-star hotel offers a highly gourmet restaurant, the two-Michelin-starred Silver Press; The 5-star Biarritz Palace Hotel is the emblem of the city. He claims the Living Heritage Company label. Founded in 1854, the hotel was the residence of Empress Eugenie and Napoleon III; The 5-star Monnets in Cognac were erected in 1838 and now offers 92 rooms and suites, 13 apartments, two restaurants and a contemporary spa; The Splendid in Dax is a jewel of art deco, symbol of the cultural and artistic movement of the city of Dax. The hotel’s spa offers Spa Des Cinq Mondes treatments.
Interview with Hubert BIARD, associate lawyer at CVS Lawyer
According to Hubert BIARD, associate lawyer at the firm Cornet Vincent Segurel Lawyers, high-end positioning is not improvised. Their Bordeaux clients (mainly business leaders and wineries) in the context of acquisitions or mergers, evolve themselves within luxurious worlds. The business lawyers of Cornet Vincent Segurel offer a bespoke and personalized service. The added value of their offer lies in this respect from the point of view of the technical skills of the firm’s lawyers. The high-end positioning also corresponds to their pricing policy: about 240 and 300 euros per hour, depending on the mission under consideration.
The Bordeaux premises of the Cornet Vincent Segurel Avocat firm are located on a former site of a Bordeaux merchant, a sign of a strong attachment to Bordeaux’s cultural heritage. Foreign clients make up 15 to 20% of CVS Lawyers’ client portfolio. From the point of view of the profile of foreign customers, Hubert Biard notes that there are fewer Chinese customers. This is due to the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government in this area. So this is not due to a lack of attractiveness of the Bordeaux metropolis.
Clients’ expectations meet several criteria: the first quality is listening, the second is that of the strategy that corresponds to trading techniques, especially in the case of the tax administration. Finally, the third quality is that of managing and managing customer stress.
According to Master BIARD, Bordeaux luxury is caught in a paradox, in tension between the historical weight of the Protestant world and the desire to flaunt financial power, “even if the time is no longer at the preserve of the great Bordeaux families”.
Indeed, the gap is widening between the prestigious castles of Bordeaux and the smallest castles, which are nevertheless good ambassadors of our terroirs. Hubert Biard has notably accompanied Tom Sullivan, an American billionaire, in the acquisition of four wine properties. Tom Sullivan has turned to Bordeaux thanks to his image of prestige, beyond the Atlantic. His choice was the Château Auguste, which was engaged in a biodynamic approach and the production of a very clear Rosé. Most of the production is exported to Florida, resulting in higher financial margins.
Thus, according to Hubert BIARD, “Luxury has its place in Bordeaux”, and this, even today.
Within this luxurious universe, without abandoning what has made the reputation of a Bordeaux brand, another path is possible, that of reinventing itself to seduce a clientele, mainly foreign, as demanding as sensitive to the attractions of old houses that take the part of modernity without betraying their history.
Interview with Jean-Pierre BERNARDET, Bernardet’s ceo
Bernadet specializes in silkscreening and decorating glass bottles for the spirits and wine market. Their positioning is high-end, it is mainly their customers who are part of the luxury industry. Bernadet’s turnover comes from the cognac market. Their customers are very varied in both products and geographies (packaging services for whisky in Scotland). Bernadet’s added value lies in understanding customer expectations: by reasoning more about the customer relationship than in terms of price. The average lifespan of a packaging product at Bernadet is about three years, so you have to constantly reinvent yourself, with a real increase in handmade products.
Luxury must be close to the end consumer.
According to Jean-Pierre BERNADET, the company’s chief executive, the underlying trend regarding the high-end and the very high-end is the growing gap between the French regions. According to him, in New Aquitaine, the spirits market is doing well, it is still very present from the point of view of luxury. On the other hand, Jean-Pierre Bernadet notices a lack of breath for the Bordeaux wine market, a certain inertia in relation to the luxury market. Bordeaux wines are essentially capitalised on an image of tradition, which they oppose to innovation. This helps to tarnish the image of Bordeaux wines abroad. However, the luxury sector in Bordeaux assumes that the product is sufficient on its own, packaging changes very little, except for a few players in the sector who innovate such as Château Angélus.
Luxury in New Aquitaine is a landmark.
However, the Bordeaux economy is doing rather well from the point of view of luxury according to him, since New Aquitaine has beautiful products and important know-how. The areas for improvement, however, are the transfer of skills and the lack of anticipation of market trends by luxury players.
The luxury and excellence of the New Aquitaine region attracts millions of tourists every year. It highlights an attractive and resolutely forward-looking region, driven by investments in infrastructure and the development of luxury venues and activities. However, the Region must continue to strengthen its image in the world.
According to Jean-Pierre BERNADET, the demand for luxury customers has not increased, it has completely changed. Firstly with globalization and the arrival of strong and high-end external demand, especially In Asia. The codes that define what is luxurious or not have therefore changed territories. The application guides these codes. The generational effect also helps shape the luxury market. Millennials are not in a logic of brand or product loyalty, they are much more volatile and autonomous in their act of consumption.
There is thus a paradox inherent in the luxury sector: the market is changing rapidly but “making luxury” takes time. Nor should we think that the price effect does not play in the luxury sector, it is not true.
According to him, it is no longer enough to say that we make a high-end product, yet it is necessary, to exist, to be able to demonstrate it
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