The New-found Source of affordable authentic wines made by small independent producers (S.I.P.) – Bordeaux!
We don’t hear about them much but Bordeaux is a source of wonderful, affordable authentic wines made by passionate wine producers. Wines made by real people with stained, gnarled hands and soil on their shoes. There are only 250 of the elite Grand Cru Classé representing only 2% which it seems only the very rich can afford these days, yet they seem to take all the limelight.
At the same time wine consumers in countries such as the UK suffer from high prices (due partly to the numerous middle men). Add to that the predicted doubling of sales on the internet and a thirst for hands-on knowledge about wine and you have the reasons why wine writer Nicolle Croft has created S.IP, a wine tour company based in Bordeaux specializing in promoting, through wine tourism, the Small Independent Wine Producers in the region.
There are another 8,000 or so petits châteaux, still predominantly family-owned that are becoming a dying breed. “This is a crucial time in Bordeaux”, founder Nicolle Croft explains. “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 where their wines get lost in the mass and their individual stories are lost”
A growing number of visitors to Bordeaux (3.3 million in 2011) Wine consumers who crave to drink authentic wines direct from the wine producer can join the SIP Wine Club and benefit from direct prices from the small producer. 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.
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”.
A thirst for hands-on knowledge about wine Today the consumer is too distracted for books, too busy to follow a ‘dry’ wine course. There is a growing demand for spending short activity-packed breaks. 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.
“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. 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 S.I.P. 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.