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Economic diplomacy/tourism/launch of the book on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855

Published on April 23, 2015
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (excerpts)

Paris, April 21, 2015


To begin these brief remarks, I have in mind the words of Winston Churchill, who was never short on witticisms and who, when it came to wine-tasting, was not only a believer but an excellent practitioner. He said: “My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best.” Ultimately, this encapsulates what has brought us together today.

And while we’re talking of witticisms, I love this quote from Oscar Wilde about Bordeaux: “The French are so proud of their wine that they have even named some of their cities after a vintage wine.”

As for the best, that’s exactly what we’re celebrating this evening, because we’re marking the 160th anniversary of the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification. (…)

Beyond our personal tastes, wine is a very serious matter for our country, because it’s an important part of French people’s identity, and the names of the great classified wines are part of our cultural heritage. It’s a factor in France’s influence in the world and part of our attractiveness for tourism. (…)

Just a word about tourism because, like Matthias Fekl, I’m inexhaustible on the subject. It’s an absolutely extraordinary strength for our country. First of all, it accounts for thousands of non-relocatable jobs and considerable resources. Here’s why it’s a strength: when you ask the world’s citizens this simple question: “where would you like to go?” the answer that comes out top is France. We hold first place in a number of fields and disciplines; not in all of them, but in this one it’s undeniable. (…)

French wines are an extremely powerful tourist magnet, and the statistics – which aren’t always incorrect – show us that a third of the tourists who come to France cite wine-tasting and gastronomy as the main reasons for their choice of destination. (…)
So we’re trying to be practical. You were kind enough to refer to the operation we conducted a few weeks ago now, Goût de France: nearly 1,500 restaurants worldwide and we ourselves in Versailles, with the ambassadors, celebrated French cuisine and wine. I welcome the ambassadors present, for whom I understand the dinner wasn’t a complete disappointment! (…)

With the same aim of increasing our global reach, we’re working to ensure France can host Expo 2025, which would be an opportunity to celebrate properly and with special symbolism – and we must start thinking about this – the 170th anniversary of the grands crus. (…)

There’s another important factor linked to this, namely the development of what’s called wine tourism. It’s a very significant sector, and tourists are increasingly seeking experiences they describe as authentic, often far from capitals. They’re asking for creativity, for character – the word also used about a good wine. A growing number of tourists – the figures are getting really striking – want to visit the big French vineyards and learn about wine-growing expertise. What we call “excellence clusters” have therefore been created: there’s one for Bordeaux and one for Burgundy, with wine as the theme. I’m going to Bordeaux on Friday, incidentally, to sign a contract relating to the region. Wine tourism really is a sector we intend to develop together with you.

It so happens that Matthias Fekl and I are responsible for foreign trade. We’re not the ones who will directly improve the foreign trade figures, but we can help, and that’s what I’ve asked all my ambassadors to do. Let me remind you that the results for wines and spirits are positive and even very positive, but that we must be very vigilant.
Without wishing to bore you with this, we must be especially mindful – because that’s how things work now – of the issue of so-called referencing on the Internet. (…) So the websites must be easy to find, and they must be of high quality; that’s one of the conditions of success. (…)./.

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