Have you ever wondered why your favorite bottle of wine is named the way it is- was it a marketing ploy to increase sales, simply the name of the estate of family who produced it, or is there some meaning behind the name and graphics? On a recent trip to France I got the background story on how one odd little label came to life and the big impact it has had.
Having spent a fair amount of my time in the northern parts of France my recent trip to the South-West was certainly a new experience. One of my favorite towns we visited on this trip was St. Emilion. This quaint, lesser-known wine centre bustles with medieval architecture and vineyards as far as the eye can see. We toured with our Local Host, Patricia, who gave us the insider’s guide to what St. Emilion has to offer.
The highlight of our St.Emilion visit was a stop to a local wine boutique. During our visit we were fortunate to share a quick hello with Jean-Luc Thunevin – a friend of Patricia’s – and the owner of Hosted Villa’s Chateau Valandraud. After a brief introduction, we stuck around the shop to taste some wine (for breakfast none the less!) and hear about how the prestigious Valandraud wine came to be.
The story begins with a young Jean Luc working in the bank with very little money of his own. Always passionate about wine, he eventually left the bank to pursue his passion. The first step in this process was the purchase of a house with an attached garage and a small vineyard.
During the first year, lacking the means to make his own wine, he simply took his grapes to the local co-operative (where many growers grapes are combined to somewhat generic wines). By the second year he knew he had to make his own wine yet still lacked the resources (“il n’avait pas les moyens”). He started “graine par graine” (grape by grape) and the production was so small it could be kept in just a few barrels in his garage. At the time, others in the industry scoffed at this ‘vin de garage’ thinking nothing could come of this tiny production.
After a few years of production, and despite the low expectations of critics, Valandraud’s popularity exploded and Jean Luc is now credited with now offering some of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world.
While Jean Luc is well known and respected for many of his wines, the “Bad Boy” label that was displayed so proudly in the wine shop we visited is really the culmination of his story from banker to successful winemaker – with each part of the label telling part of this tale:
- The ‘Le Moulin noir (black sheep) represents ‘celui qui n’est pas come tout le monde’ (the one who is different than the rest).
- The ‘Bad Boy’ represents someone who came from nothing and succeeded.
- The Direction Garage sign represents his ‘Garage’ where the wine production first began.
When thinking of the branding of a fine French wine, I am not sure that the “Bad Boy” label is what one would imagine – but when hearing the story of Jean Luc and his tales of black sheep turned world famous wine maker, understanding the label adds to the wine drinking experience and offers a wonderful story to share when enjoying it with friends.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to learn more about Jean-Luc and his Hosted Villa’s home, Chateau Valandraud, take a look at the photos below and visit Here for more information.