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COS Chronicle

An American Love Story

INTERVIEW -

During the nineteenth century, Louis-Gaspard d’Estournel shipped his wines abroad, especially to India, one of Cos d’Estournel’s very first export markets. Since then, the estate has expanded the presence and distribution of its wines across the globe; today they are sold in countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania as well as on the American continent. Etienne de Nantes, Business Development Director for the U.S., explains the particularities of the American market, a historically important market for the wines of Bordeaux, especially those of Cos d’Estournel.

Etienne de Nantes, how would you describe the role you play for Cos d’Estournel in the U.S.?

I am like the conductor of a symphony orchestra. We work with a vast array of players across the distribution network, starting with the Bordeaux negociants to whom we sell our wines to U.S. distributors, restaurants and wine shops and ending with the American consumer. Maintaining fluidity and trust between these players is essential to staying close to the individuals who purchase our wines. It is very important for us to know who is buying our wines: my role is to develop and maintain relations with the companies that distribute our wines and the people who are drinking them.

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What makes the U.S. market so particular?

The American market is quite complex, as the process of selling wine varies from one state to another. The “three-tier system” is the perfect example (although a fading one): it requires working with three different players—an importer, a distributor and a retailer—before reaching the final consumer. Each state’s distribution system is structured differently and may include a series of players, like in California and New York, or be set up as a monopoly, in which the state handles all the different roles, like in Pennsylvania. This variation from state to state also applies to legislation, which is very strict and complex. This is how we make a difference: to be well-distributed, estates must understand these particularities and have been on the U.S. market for thirty or forty years, working closely with the network to make their wines available to consumers.

The wines of Cos d’Estournel are distributed in most of the fifty states, regardless of size. The U.S. is a highly competitive market, one that requires major resources to stay visible, but more importantly, one in which maintaining close ties with distributors is primordial. The quality of these relationships is what allows Cos d’Estournel to understand its end consumers. Our frequent presence is necessary to maintaining a sincere, loyal relationship.

What is it that draws American consumers to Cos d’Estournel?

Whether they are devotees or seasoned collectors of Cos d’Estournel, our fans are first and foremost drawn by the quality of our wines, which are recognizable for their wonderful complexity and unsurpassing elegance. But they also enjoy discovering the universe of Cos d’Estournel. Over the years, we have created deep bonds with amateurs of our wines; we have gotten to known them and they have gotten to know us. We ensure that every moment spent together allows them to further immerse themselves in our world and share our philosophy. The 2018 launch of COS100 in New York by Michel Reybier and his family was an extraordinary moment, an exceptional charity dinner concocted by Jérôme Banctel, chef of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Gabriel at La Réserve Paris, for 150 devotees of Cos d’Estournel. It was a truly unique evening during which participants once again demonstrated, through their presence and their bids on lots including a Balthazar and a double magnum of COS100, their attachment to Cos d’Estournel.

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How do you build these relationships?

Lots of American consumers are very curious and they are delighted to participate in wine events. They enjoy getting together, talking about wine and meeting members of the Cos d’Estournel team when they travel to the U.S. To respond to this demand, we organize special, original happenings, often in unexcepted places. Each format is conceived to deepen our bonds with our customers and ensure their longevity through constant dialogue, like the start of a long friendship based on trust.

It has been our experience that these ties are also strengthened when these consumers, after having spent time with us at a dinner, for example, come to visit us at the estate during their travels to Bordeaux. They are delighted to come see us and be part of a special moment, be it a dinner or an event. We feel fortunate to be able to host them and let them discover the heart and soul of the estate, experiencing it in a way that they will remember and talk of fondly for years. Their presence at Cos d’Estournel and the dedicated attention they receive create a particular bond: it is the start of a beautiful friendship.

More and more, certain amateurs of Cos d’Estournel have also begun inviting us into their private circles. They welcome us into their homes to participate in dinners they organize and to share very unique moments with their friends. This is yet another way to strengthen their ties to the estate, as we share extraordinary experiences with aficionados of our wines. What could be more exceptional than being invited by a collector to join a casual tasting dinner including wines dating all the way back to 1961, 1959, 1949, 1934, 1928 and even 1870? There is indeed special magic at work in the universe of wine, especially at Cos d’Estournel!

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