I spent last Thursday and Friday in Burgundy tasting its wines and visiting a small but outstanding vineyard in Chassagne-Montrachet, Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard masterfully managed by Caroline Lestimé. Those two events made me understand even more deeply how wine marketing and branding evolved in about 100 years.
First, on Thursday night, thanks to the kindness of our friend François Audouze, we were invited to a fabulous wine dinner where older wines were served: among very prestigious names, there was a lonely and mysterious Chambertin 1904 (yes, no typo – 1904) bottled in 1906: no mention of the producer, no place of bottling, no indication of any kind on the cork or the label. This loner fared beautifully among its peers and talked to our souls (and palates).
After a short night, I was on the train going to Chassagne-Montrachet to meet Caroline Lestimé. Caroline, daughter of Jean-Noël Gagnard, is managing the estate and making its beautiful Bâtard-Montrachet and other Chassagne-Montrachet wines. More interestingly, she also created several new brands of her own: her cuvée L’Estimée is a Pinot Noir , her Sous Eguisons was launched in 2005 with 30 cases of her Chardonnay and her Clos Bortier – another Pinot – was launched in 2004.
The contrast between the two worlds was really striking: in 1904, a producer in Chambertin didn’t feel compelled to put his name on the bottle while in 2004, Caroline Lestimé created a wine bearing her name to link the land and its emanation to her savoir-faire and her talent as a vintner and a winemaker. As a marketer, I must confess I’m very partial to Caroline’s strategy: it’s important – when your wines are crossing centuries – to tell your story in your wine. In 2114, people who’ll drink Caroline’s wines will be able to do a search on her name and read about her, her family, her story as a creator of a great wine. Even if the mysterious Chambertin 1904 pleased my palate, I’m still frustrated by the lack of information. This Chambertin stands alone in the middle of the Vosne-Romanée, Domaine La Romanée Conti and other Nuit-Saint-Georges that made our evening so unforgettable. Please brand your wines and tell us your story: we love it!