A look back by France’s south-western wine “guru” Lionel Osmin on the 2017 edition of Vinexpo Bordeaux
Looking back at Vinexpo 2017, the show has been a big success for Lionel Osmin & Cie. As the show drew to a close on Wednesday 21st June, we asked the head of this leading southwestern French wine company to give us his “feeling” about the show.
For Lionel Osmin & Cie, Vinexpo is the gateway to the world. You can’t not be at Vinexpo if you have an international ambition! We have primarily been interested in meeting buyers from around the world, but not necessarily from emerging markets, whose buyers are more interested in the “big names”. As our region is lesser known internationally, we are more interested in specialist operators in mature markets than broad-scale operators in emerging markets. Already for many of them, getting to know the Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties is hard, so you can imagine what it’s like trying to sell them on the southwest.
What is the biggest challenge for you at a show like this?
Our challenge is above all to show, in all markets that have an ingrained wine culture, where the consumers are already somewhat “wine aware”, we can talk to them about Madiran, Cahors, Jurançon, Buzet, Marcillac or Gaillac, but at Osmin & Cie, we have created complementary ranges of wines, meaning that our offer today is centred on two main ranges. On the one hand, we have appellation wines, wines of character, terroir, but we also wanted to adapt our offer to consumers who are less “enlightened” with a range of varietal wines. In fact, there are several ways of attracting consumers around the world: through appellations, châteaux and brands, but also through the varietal – the grape varieties. It’s these cépages that are at the heart of our DNA, so we have created a range of very “Frenchy”, modern wines, called the “Villa” and “Reserve” collections. These wines are not overly “funky”, so as to reassure the consumer, based on indigenous wines, but can sometimes be blended with more international varieties.
We saw that the Malbec was very popular at your stand. What is the general opinion about this with people tasting your wines? Do people need more education?
The Malbec has become internationally renowned, but its source and origin is Cahors in the Lot Valley. Traditionally it’s full-bodied, but we now provide two interpretations of this wine. The new one is a fruity vintage, which I would say is “civilised”, and in no way resembles the historic, traditional “rustic” variety. Demonstrating to consumers that Malbec is an interesting variety, that it is not only French, but from the southwest, allows us to promote it today as the “original French fresh Malbec”. The Negrette is also very unique, planted only at Fronton just north of Toulouse, producing excellent rosé wines.
Your stand was clearly marked with your new “sub brand” – Les Passeurs du Vin. What is this exactly?
While my entire career up until relatively recently in the wine world was centred on selling wines from my region around the world, I also wanted to help people in France discover other amazing wines from different regions in the world – a kind of “payback”. So to cut a long story short, one day I was talking to Imanol Harinordoquy (eds: a French International Rugby Union player), who was a big wine fan, and the idea of creating a new entity in this sense really appealed to him. Finally, this has come to pass, and he is now attacking this new challenge with as much gusto as when he was a rugby international. This is the first time we have presented this activity at Vinexpo.
Finally, what is your overall impression of this year’s show?
We achieved what we set out to do – that is to educate, interest and excite buyers of French southwestern product on the global stage, and of some exceptional little-known foreign wines in France. I am convinced that all those (and there were many) who stopped by our stand, will have walked away with a new understanding of not just one, but a number of new products!
Who really is Lionel Osmin?
“My family path was drawn: gold, precious stones, watchmaking… But, it was written that I would be the family troublemaker! My father pushed me to follow agronomy studies so that I could have the choice. I love the earth, the men who work with it; I love the wine, the smells, the scents, the taste, the friendliness, the idea that only one’s will can change things profoundly. My future was thus in the heart of the Earth and of people.
I wanted to be a farmer or a pianist. I tried, I got lost, I went awry. Basically, what I really wanted was to share my enthusiasm. That’s what I needed to succeed. The rest is an ordinary story. Agricultural Engineering degree in my pocket, I was ready to face the world and nally, I had a great desire to do. I probably chose a dif cult path, but I am so attached to my region: the southwest! My will is to offer only the best. My ambition: to magnify blends to shape high quality wines, each in their segments.
The wines of the southwest are true and rare. We owe this to the terroirs and to the men. For me, the Southwest is authenticity, another dimension whose originalities magnify one’s enthusiasm.
In a new business, our only way out: do it right. You know, 3,000 years ago, man already produced wine. I have the furious will to share my southwest with you. Besides, I’m not alone. “Lionel Osmin”, certainly, but “& Cie” (eds: and company) above all.
Photo: Lionel Osmin, Thomas Dassé – Export Sales Europe and Damiens Sartori – Oenologist, Lionel Osmin & Cie (l. to r.)