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Stéphane Badet is an amazing, extremely important, and skillful specialist not only in the development of world winemaking, but also in our Ukrainian viticulture.
A French expert from Bordeaux has recently held a seminar “French experience in the wine sector: industry organization, commercialization and requirements for wine quality” for winemakers in the south of Ukraine, and Drinks+ took advantage of Stephen’s stay in Ukraine and talked to him about winemaking in general and winemaking in Ukraine in particular.
As a result of our communication, such an interesting and informative interview is released. Apart from that, Stéphane Badet is now a member of the jury of the new international Wine Travel Awards, co-organized by Drinks+ Media Group.
Stéphane Badet is a specialist at Bordeaux Sciences Agro University (France) with a degree in Agroeconomics. The lecturer at EPL Bordeaux, Bordeaux Sciences Agro University and Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences. Specialized in wine industry management, business, marketing, and tourism for many years. Appointed by the French Ministry of Agriculture as a specialist in economic indicators and agroecology under the ministry. Stéphane has extensive experience as an expert and consultant in various cooperation programs in the field of winemaking around the world (Georgia, Ukraine, Serbia, Madagascar, Kosovo, Bolivia…) for Interco NA, French and German embassies, PNUD, FAO, etc. He is actively involved in the development of economic performance, marketing of wine tourism and agroecological transformation activities in the field of winemaking.
Stéphane, please, tell us a little bit about yourself. How and how long ago did you step on the winemaking path? What is the focus of your main job?
I work for the French Ministry of Agriculture as a wine economist, professor of economics, management, marketing, tourism for the wine sector… and as an international expert for the state and regional authority of France, Région Nouvelle Aquitaine, specialized in economic performance and agroecological transition. I train and coach the next generations of wine managers and advise countries such as Bolivia, Madagascar, Serbia, Georgia… and Ukraine that want to develop their wine sector, with the support of France.
I am an agronomist engineer from Bordeaux, which is known as the world capital for the wine. So, when you are born in Bordeaux, you are in the wine since your birth! Wine in Bordeaux is everywhere, even downtown with monuments, wine bars, wine shops, wine tourists and the Cité du vin! There are more than 100 000 ha of vineyards around Bordeaux, more than 6 000 wineries and 60 000 people working in wine sector. Bordeaux breathes the wine. Many people in the world know the name of Bordeaux for its wine but they don’t usually know that it’s also a big and beautiful city! So, working in wine when you were born in Bordeaux, it’s a normal destiny!
Who invited you to Ukraine for the first time and with what mission?
It was in 2017, and it was the French embassy and the CCI France Ukraine. And it is the same for all the missions. I am an economist and an expert for the French Ministry of Agriculture, so I work as an official of the French state. I can also work for private companies, but my mission concerns public services and my priority target was and still is to analyse, to advise and to help to reborn, to restart, to develop the Ukrainian wine sector and all the wineries that want to take this way.
You have been working with the wine region of Transcarpathia for several years in a row. What are some specific features of this region, to your mind?
Transcarpathia is a very different area from the other Ukrainian wine producing areas. At the same time, it is very similar of the European continental wine regions and countries, such as Hungary, Slovakia or Austria which are only few kilometres from Transcarpathia.
What potential does its wine have?
The natural conditions (soils and climate), the varieties are really the same, and the wine can be also the same and of high quality! The quality did not stop at the border!! It’s enough to taste wines from the château Chizay or from other wineries to notice it. The potential to make great wines of this area is very high, and the potential for tourism is also really very high!!
What is missing in the region and what do you advise to pay attention to?
Promotion, communication! Nobody knows Zakarpattia in the world, except Ukrainian and Hungarian people, which is not enough to develop a tourism sector of a region, such as Zakarpattia. So, we need to promote Zakarpattia to west-European people, and as a full destination with a lot of opportunities of amazing vacations: sport, hiking, nature, gastronomy, heritage, thermal baths… and of course wines. There is also lack of facilities: hotels, restaurants, road-signs, book-guides…
This area is very close to Lviv, a very touristic town (3-hour drive). Visitors who come in Lviv, can take a countryside break of 2 or 3 days in Zakarpattia. There is also lack of money to finance the necessary investments.
How would you comment on the high acidity of Transcarpathian wines, considering the fact there is a lot of sun in the region, and the summer is hot?
The climate is typically continental there and even with hot and short summers the terroir remains cool, particularly at night and the wines have a good acidity especially the whites. This acidity makes the wines very pleasant to drink. The global consumer demands this type of wine that is easy to drink, fresh and light. Climate change can alter everything – wines could lose this acidity and alcohol degree could increase.
A month ago, you visited the Black Sea wine region for the first time. What are your impressions?
It was not the first time on the Black Sea shores, I enjoyed, but it was the first time in the Mykolaiv area. I know well wines from the Black Sea (Odessa, Georgia, Russia, Moldova…) and I work with some of these countries.
What do you think, what are the prospects for the region? How did you assess the local wines – which, in principle, would be worth making in the Black Sea region?
I discovered this part of the Black Sea vineyard that I didn’t know before. There is a great potential in this part of Ukraine. There are already some very good wines such as Beykush or Slivino and many others. And some interesting and historical Black Sea varieties such as Odessa Black, Saperavi or Rkatsiteli… With a good technical management, these varieties and some international such as Syrah, Merlot or Cabernet can allow wineries to produce great and original wines to go abroad in the global market. Some wineries from the Black Sea region are already ranked. Wines are in Mediterranean style, especially reds.
This region can also produce modern sparkling and fortified wines for the global market, not of the “Soviet old fashion style”, but light, well balanced, easy to drink and dry. To go abroad, wines must be not too heavy and without a lot of sugar. A new young drinker doesn’t appreciate this type of wine anymore. This land can also produce great white and rosé wines.
The Black Sea region is still a touristic area, so wineries can develop business models with original wine tourism offer, to grab visitors they need new, local activities in the nature. With tourism, the consumer is coming to you, you don’t have to look for markets and buyers, they come to you to buy and spend money, you just should promote your destination, open your winery, and welcome people with a nice proposition during their vacations. It’s a cool way to sell wines!
“Personally, I go to other countries such as New Zealand or Australia to analyse other technical and business models in order to come back to France with new ideas.”
And what should be paid attention to?
In the Black Sea region, we must pay attention to climate change. The climate is already warm and dry, and there is a risk to be warmer and dryer in the next years. And wines from this region could be too rich in alcohol, too heavy, not well balanced, with too few acidities, not really on the line with consumer expectations. Winegrowers and winemakers will have to be vigilant in the next years and adapt their technical managing to this risk (choice of the good grape varieties, watering…).
Stéphane, back in 2019 you planned to invite winemakers and employees of Chateau Chizay to practice in Bordeaux. Which wineries in Bordeaux do you work with?
Thanks to my numerous students, I am lucky to be able to teach and work with many wineries in France. And as an international expert for the French Ministry of Agriculture, I work with many wineries, universities, local and national authorities all over the world. One of the specificities of agricultural education in France is that each school, whatever its level, has a winery to practice and learn in the real life and not only in the classroom. For example, in my high school, we have a total of 120 ha of vineyard around Bordeaux to produce and to train our students. I also advise some French and foreign (Ukrainian, for example) wineries especially on business, tourism, marketing, technical choices… So, everybody is welcome in Bordeaux or in another wine area. Sharing technical, business models, tourism choices is really very important to progress. Personally, I go to other countries such as New Zealand or Australia to analyse other technical and business models in order to come back to France with new ideas. We learn, we progress all our life in wine sector. Nobody can say: “I know everything about wine.” We hope to have some Ukrainian winegrowers, winemakers, and owners in the next weeks in Bordeaux to share experience and work together. Bordeaux is the world wine capital, and you can find a lot of very different technical and business models. Everyone can find what they are looking for to improve their professional skills.
“As I always say, teaching wine in the classroom is good and necessary but teaching and training wine in the vineyard, winery or wine tasting room is better!”
What does practice mean?
To be a good winegrower, winemaker, merchant… For all wine jobs, you need to train and practice. As I always say, teaching wine in the classroom is good and necessary but teaching and training wine in the vineyard, winery or wine tasting room is better! You need to practice in order to be a good wine professional. My students and I are harvesting, pruning, pumping, selling, sharing with consumers in our wineries.
Have you thought about sharing experience with other wineries in Ukraine as well?
When I am in Ukraine, or in Georgia, in Madagascar, it’s not to earn money, it’s to share experience and knowledge, practices… That’s why we are in Ukraine to help to reboot the Ukrainian wine sector. This is our mission with the French embassy.
What do you think Ukrainian wines lack in order Ukraine worthily bears the title of “Wine-making country” in the world?
To have the title of and be known in the world as a “Wine-making country”, Ukraine must produce high quality, trendy, original and ranked in the world-famous contests wines each year. Ukraine has also to promote the wine sector abroad, for example, due to its participation in all the international fairs (Vinexpo, Vinitech, Prowein, London…) and help to export wines abroad, to the EU, for instance. But it’s a long way and it must be a collective target. Probably for 10 years. At last Ukraine must be a state member of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).
“To have the title of and be known in the world as a “Wine-making country”, Ukraine must produce high quality, trendy, original and ranked in the world-famous contests wines each year.”
Stéphane, please, share the latest trends in wine marketing in France and the world with the Drinks+ readers. What is topical now?
The latest trends in wine marketing are numerous: for example, original wines, very original labels with a lot of colours, shifted messages, new conditioning such as wine in a box, in a can, in a tube… Everything looks to be possible to be different! New moments and forms of drinking wine: wine in trendy places, wine for the aperitif, cocktails with wine. New types of wines produced to satisfy new consumption tendencies, for example, wines with less alcohol or no alcohol, hand crafted wines, wines from forgotten grapes, wines with original aging places (under the sea, under the snow, in caves…). New ways to communicate about wine: wine and food (pairing), wine tourism, wineries in social networks… Old fashioned red wines aged in new oak barrels for months or years (except for the Bordeaux or Burgundy first growths) and classic labels are completely over!
“Wines that please more a winemaker than a consumer [are unacceptable]. The best wine is the one that pleases a consumer who after the first glass wants to finish the bottle.”
What impresses you personally, and what is unacceptable for you?
All wines of all levels, all prices, and all origin in the world have my full respect if they look sincere! What is unacceptable for me is to see artificial wines manufactured in the industry or with flaws. I think also that prices in French restaurants are unacceptable, as well as frauds, counterfeits, misuse of protected brands. Wines that please more a winemaker than a consumer. The best wine is the one that pleases a consumer who after the first glass wants to finish the bottle. Wine must be a natural result of the fruit, the terroir and the winegrower’s work, with the origin guarantee. This is what the drinker should find in the glass.
Can you predict which wines, which styles and of which countries, in your opinion, will become the leaders in demand soon?
For the next 10 years, we know well the new consumption tendencies. In the next years, the new consumer will drink more “green” wines (organic, natural…), less alcoholic wines, light (0 sugar), fresh, easy to drink (for example, for afterwork), more and more sparkling and rosé wines. Reds, not too full bodied, but rather fruity, well rounded, and easy to drink wines. In restaurants, the big trend is that wine will get stronger by the glass. The consumer no longer wants heavy, too oaky, with a lot of alcohol and sugar wines.
Wine is an expensive beverage, so of course, in the next 10 years, the big markets will be the USA, the EU, and Asia (China, Japan). In the longer term, think to bet on India, other South-East countries, and some African countries. Probably, also Mexico, Brazil… All the big countries with large populations will be getting richer in the next 20 years.
What has changed in your workflow during the pandemic, what insights came to you during the lockdown?
During the lockdown, we had a lot of digital activities and courses with the students and foreign countries not to have to stop the international cooperation projects. For example, for the Chizay Academy, we made a webinar on the rosé market. I also worked in 2 wineries (Château Dillon and Giscours) with my son and some students to help them because part of staff could not work during the pandemic. I also wrote articles about the consequences for the wine market and consumption, about the current situation in post-Soviet countries and Zakarpattia. I was finally very busy, and it allowed me to do things I had no time to do in normal times!!!
Stéphane, one of the areas of your activity is food and wine tourism. What exactly do you do in this area? In what projects and in what status did you participate?
I teach and train the managers and the next managers. I advise wineries and help them to develop their wine tourism sector. I also create some original wine tourism events or propositions.
For example, at the beginning of July, I organised a show jumping in château Giscours, grand cru classé Margaux, to match wine with horse sport, with jazz concert, classic cars… (you can find pictures on my Facebook page). Or I worked with some of my master students (as a study case for them) for château Dillon (Haut Médoc), château Luchey-Halde (Pessac-Leognan) to find some original solutions to make stronger their touristic proposition.
Considering the situation in the world, tourism turned out to be one of the most affected industries by the pandemic. What recommendations do you have for the restoration and development of this direction in Ukraine and in the world?
Thanks to vaccination, the restart of tourism sector is currently being done in some countries, especially in the EU, and will require at least 2 years to return to the previous levels. There will be a “tourism revenge”! But you will have to be patient! In the next months, it will be necessary to target visitors from your country or neighbouring countries. Not from far abroad. We call that “nearcation” for nearby vacations. After the lockdown, people want to have outdoor, nature, sport vacations. In the wine sector, we have a lot of possibilities to answer this need, for example biking, hiking in the vineyard to discover landscapes, biodiversity… Or workshops. Cooking, pairing is another tendency we must target. Wine sector can be a winner of the tourism revenge this summer and the next year. We should grab this opportunity to develop some original trendy wine tourism propositions. Promotion and communication, storytelling and sharing experience will be also important to catch visitors.
“Tourism is a new profit centre for wineries, a new job, a new business way to sell wines, to promote brands, and to earn money.”
By the way, Drinks+ Media Group, with the support of a number of reputable international organizations, has established a global initiative to contribute to the restoration of world wine tourism – the Wine Travel Awards. These are the awards of a new educational format. The Wine Travel Awards are focused on wine guides, ambassadors of wines and wine regions (both influencers and associations of winemakers, brewers, farmers), the Wine Routes facilities themselves – Wine Museums, wineries, restaurants, hotels and tasting rooms, distilleries, and other establishments that form tourist routes. We would be very grateful if you would comment on this project: we know that there have been many awards for a long time, including for wine tourism, or for wine bloggers, or for hotels that work quite successfully. But our main feature is to unite all wine tourism operators into a single community – from the facilities themselves, to guides and bloggers. Our goal is to give them in their hands not just prizes, but educational programs and a year-long advertisement campaign for each of them. It would be an honour for us to hear your opinion and comments.
Yes, there are many awards in many main wine countries for a long time, in France, USA… so, of course it’s a great idea! We always say to our students or to the wine owners: “Tourism is an opportunity for wine and wine is an opportunity for tourism”. Wine and tourism sectors must go together in the same way with the same goal. Develop a collective tourism game! As I said before, to develop tourism and wine tourism, you should promote destinations and to communicate with some targeted markets. So, this initiative looks to be THE GOOD IDEA for the Ukrainian wine and tourism sectors! Tourism is a new profit centre for wineries, a new job, a new business way to sell wines, to promote brands, and to earn money. So, let’s do it! My only comment concerns the targeted markets. We must make Ukraine known as a destination for the EU visitors. Many people from Italy, Germany, UK, Scandinavia, Israel… can be interested in vacations in Ukraine. Putting forward its heritage, the Black Sea, Nature, gastronomy, wines… (and even why not a Chernobyl visit) means to promote. These markets are very close, the visitors from them can be the first to come and to help (re)start the tourism sector. And to conclude, if you are looking for the jury members for the next awards, I can be one of them!