12 May 2009

Selling Loire Valley wines in America

Here's an article from yesterday's local newspaper. The translation is mine. Monmousseau is a wine company based over in Montrichard, 10 miles west of Saint-Aignan.
“A Solid U.S. Market for Loire Valley wines”
Annick Coucharrière is just back from the United States, where she has set up a network of importers for Monmousseau wines — state by state. And successfully, despite the economic crisis.

She’s a straight talker. Annick Coucharrière doesn’t mince her words and has little patience for people who do. And she has no problem speaking English. The head of the Monmousseau wine business is just back after spending a month in the States. She goes over two or three times a year, and her colleague Isabelle Moreau does the same.

It’s been like that for 10 years now. The company has had good relations with American importers for a decade. Not with one big importer at the national level, but with smaller-scale importers in about 30 U.S. states. “These are operations on a human scale,” Mme Coucharrière says. “This is the way we like to do business.” She’s cautious, innovative, and... successful. Looking back on the work of a decade, Annick Coucharrière has no regrets. Today, Monmousseau’s wines are sold in some 42 states, and sales are up.

Exporting 50% of production

“The U.S. is our biggest export market,” Coucharrière says. Bigger than Japan, Germany, or Quebec, which are strong markets too, and bigger than Australia, which is growing steadily. With total annual revenues of €4.5 million ($6 million U.S.) and an output of 1.3 million bottles (75% of it sparkling wines), the export market now represents 50% of all sales.

The fact is, because of its special nature, maintaining the U.S. distribution network requires a lot of hard work. Sales need to be monitored almost on a daily basis. Work goes on in real time. “The United States is a market where there is a real opportunity for Loire Valley wines,” Coucharrière says. “The potential is enormous, because wine consumption has increased 30% over the past decade and Americans are getting a little tired of overly oaky wines. There is real enthusiasm for light, fruity wines. But we have to keep working to make people aware of Loire Valley wines.”

Obama and the economic crisis

So what about the economic downturn? “When I left on this last trip, I was a little nervous,” Coucharrière says. “Among the 10 states we visited, Florida and California are suffering terribly. In Seattle, too, for example, you can imagine the reaction to Microsoft’s recent decision to lay off 50% of its workforce*. Paradoxically, the wine and spirits business hasn’t itself been affected so far. In every market, however, sales of expensive wines are down, and that benefits companies selling in the $10 to $15 price range. At Monmousseau, that’s exactly the kind of wine we are selling.”

And what about Obama? He is having an undeniable effect on the country. “I haven’t met a single American who doesn’t expect the new president to be a miracle worker,” Annick Coucharrière says.
* I don’t think Microsoft has announced such massive layoffs.


  1. Cool! I'm wondering which are her 10 states. Any way to find out? Maybe they have a website.... hmmm.

    Great job translating, Ken!

    p.s We're getting a new range today! It has a 5th burner in the center-- it's long and oval and the grates cover the whole top of the stove, so it'll be handy for a griddle, or for long pans, like roast pans I need to make gravy in. Reminds me of when you two got your new one last year!

  2. Ken

    MSFT has 90,000 around the world and in January it was announced that 15,000 will get the axe, in other words, 17%. However, only 5,000 was the final number over 18 months. Last month a second round was announced including 1% in India and it was expected to be between 6,000 to 8,000.

  3. You're right, the 50% Microsoft figure is way off. Good to know Americans are tiring of the big oaky wines. :)

  4. Is Ken showing off his tan? :-)

  5. I find it difficult to buy Loire valley wines here on the Monterey Peninsula. Some are here but the selection is extremely limited. I think the California vintners do their best to push their wines. I wish I could find more.

  6. A wine importer in Winchester VA, Kysela Pere et Fils, carries some Monmousseau wines. On their website, www.kysela.com/loire/gaudrelle.html it says that Alexandre Monmousseau is one of the leaders of the Sec-Tendre movement. He believes in low yields for concentration and flavor.

  7. The Beaver, if you've got it, flaunt it. Isn't that what they say?

    Some of the grower-producers around Saint-Aignan sell their wines in bulk to Monmousseau for bottling under that label, I understand.


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