With the growth in wine tourism in Bordeaux, wine writer and guide Nicolle Croft launches « SIP » a wine tour company based in Bordeaux specializing in promoting, through wine tourism, the Small Independent Wine Producers in the region. Members of the SIP Wine Club will benefit from direct prices from the small producer.
“This is a crucial time in Bordeaux, claims SIP creator Nicolle Croft. “It is now that we need to help to save small producers. Only 45% of vineyards are family-owned in Bordeaux and the percentage is decreasing by the minute. These small producers are often in the cellars with their hands in wine one minute and in the vineyards the next. They do not have the time, necessary skills or contacts to try to sell direct themselves. Many are trying but in this world saturated with wine, it is difficult. Their only channel is to continue to sell their wines at low prices via middle men, the wine ‘négociant’ and be part of the ‘Place de Bordeaux’ – the traditional Bordeaux stock market.
At the same time consumers in countries such as the UK suffer from high prices for wine (due partly to the numerous middle men) and who crave to drink authentic wines direct from living people. In addition there is a thirst for a knowledge about wine. Today the consumer is too distracted for books, too busy to follow a ‘dry’ wine course. What works today is a ‘learning experience’. Each wine has its own story, and it is best recounted in person by the passionate people that make it.
Nicolle Croft sources wines from passionate wine producers and promotes them via wine tourism. “Once one has felt the passion direct from the winemaker, heard his story (and there are often generations of those), tramped in his or her vineyards and eaten the grapes from the old vines (which themselves could tell a story or two), you gain a different insight into the fascinating subject that is wine. Wine is after all about what the French call ‘terroir’ and above all the people”.
With a growing number of visitors to Bordeaux (3.3 million in 2011), the combining of wine tourism and direct sales seems an obvious step. Worldwide there is a particular growing demand for spending short activity-packed breaks.
“Once you personally get to know the face behind the wine, the enjoyment is a different experience.” Visit the region’s châteaux and vineyards, meet passionate winemakers, blend your own wine, sample direct from the barrel, taste a range of old vintages … there are numerous options for a fun-filled short break. In addition there are workshops at Nicolle Croft’s ‘Five senses Wine Workshop’, including food and wine matching. The atelier overlooks the vineyards in Fronsac in a spectacular location. There is also a SIP newsletter and a blog to keep members up-to-date with progress in the vineyards and a programme of winetasting events in the UK for SIP Club wine members.