The ginestet case study. Internationalisation as a way to

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proposed to consumers by local châteaux (in fact middle-range wine producers as any vineyard can

adopt a château name linked with its family name…) without a guarantee of pluriannual stability.

Ginestet has reinforced then its vinification tools – with a “chai d’élevage” (wine storehouse

intended to get wine mature) rich with 5 000 barrels at Carignan-de-Bordeaux. It has even concluded

contracts with several dozens wine producers in order to provide them with advice all along

the grape growth process and of course the first wine treatments, in order to get from ahead wines

of stable quality to be managed afterwards by Ginestet’s wine storehouses; more than half of any

generic wines gathered by the latter came now from vineyards covered by that large umbrella of quality

from the vine culture up to the wine vats.

In the meanwhile Ginestet has been more and more involved with the world of well known bordeaux

wines as the Taillan group purchased several high-range vineyards: besides Cos d’Estournel (a

saint-estèphe), already included within Ginestet’s control, Gruaud-Larose (a saint-julien), Chasse-

Spleen (a moulis cru bourgeois), Haut Bages Libéral (a pauillac cru classé), Ferrière (a margaux cru

classé), La Gurgue (a margaux cru bourgeois) and Citran (a haut-médoc cru bourgeois) have been

added all along the recent years. This helped Ginestet’s commercial forces to enlarge their ranges,

which encompassed either generic wines or high level crus; their notoriety boosted Ginestet’s own

reputation and that of its less high range wines.

3. Internationalisation as a target and a consequence

Owing to that two-fold strategy – quality policy and generic wines in order to promote the Ginestet

brand; high level crus –, any market segment could thus be prospected. Every kind of commercial and

profit margins could be raised, which allowed to amortise the commercial networks and to produce

cash flow. Any retail or wholesale distribution circuit could be reached, like any level of consuming purchase

power in a lot of countries. The internationalised target was in fact to get access to every level of

consuming purchase-power: middle classes paying about five to ten euros for a generic wine; upper

classes investing much more money either to sociability events or to enrich their wine cellar, in developed

countries (United States, Western Europe, Japan) or in emerging countries in Asia or elsewhere.

These efforts led to the renewal of the Bordeaux tradition most trade houses had entertained:

internationalisation absorbed 42 % of Ginestet group’s turnover in 1999. But the Ginestet group

has developed too a strategy of spreading its quality policy abroad: it took control of eight vineyards:

one in Bulgaria, Morocco, Chile, Australia and Egypt, two in Spain, three in South Africa. An internationalised

competition has led to the emergence of these countries (and some others: Italy,

Hungary, California, etc.) on the world wine market. Would Ginestet company remain in touch

with consumers’ mood and commercial trends, it had to insert into its products’ range these non-

French wines. Pernod-Ricard and La Baronnie-Rothschild, two large French wine trade houses, had

paved the way to such a strategy – along the same way as cognac and champagne trade houses had

to distribute whisky and gin too… Internationalisation imposed in fact to respect international consuming

moves and moods – even tastes as some generic wines which are being set up in Bordeaux

have to submit to Anglo-Saxons fashions towards some kinds of wines.


The case of that middle-sized wine company, Ginestet (with a turnover of only 600 millions francs

in 1999 – less than one hundred euros – instead of 484 millions in 1995), provides thus a case study

of the deep changes of internationalisation strategies among Bordeaux wine trade houses. Whilst it



can’t bear comparison with the giant alcohol world houses (both British companies: Diageo, Allied-

Domecq; both French ones: Pernod-Ricard, LVMH5, etc.), it can in fact resist them – like some

other Bordeaux wine and alcohols houses like CVBG, Calvet, William Pitters, Yvon Mau, La

Baronnie, Marie Brizard6 – owing to a three fold international strategy convinced with the necessity

of luring any bourgeoisie’s’ group: upper classes and middle classes, through any commercial circuits

(wine shops, restaurants and wine-coffees, mass distribution), with any kind of wines (crus,

generic French middle wine, foreign wines). Each of these Bordeaux houses reached a turnover of

somehow 500 millions to one billion francs at the end of the 20th century and contributed to the

renewal of Bordeaux capitalism’s strength and competitivity after some disorder and hesitation in

the 1960s-1970s.

Internationalisation plays more and more a key part to spur bordeaux wine-traders (and winegrowers)

to reach better and more stable qualities: it compels firms to dive into competition, and

this competition is growing faster and faster on international markets. Although competition already

had been strong for decades, bordeaux grands crus were not easily equalled and still remain

unequalled… But middle range wines and low-middle range wines are submitted to a more and

more terrible competition even in terms of quality – if not tastes. This explains the utility of internationalisation

as a way to keep awakened to that reality, to avoid the drift towards market-shares

loses and to sustain fighting spirit. These middle-sized trade houses do keep resiliency and reactivity

to markets trends and can thus adapt their products and methods somehow quickly - but privileged

advantages are no more possible as even a well-known trademark, like Ginestet, could be questioned

in a while!7


1. Some researches are being under course, especially by a geograph and and economist.

2. Fernand Ginestet (1871-1953) was a self made man who had begun its career as an employee by a wine trade house in Bordeaux

in 1885, at the age of 14. His own trade house had untertaken several other ones in the following decades. It got associated with

another one, Latrille, in 1915, into a common subsidiary, Ginestet & Latrille, specialised in North Western European and British


3. Cf. Bernard Ginestet, 1897-1997, Ginestet, éditions William Blake & Co, Bordeaux, 1997. This short book is not a real business

history research but rather a novelised story, but it is worth with documents and facts and thus most interesting.

4. We used a file of Société bordelaise de CIC’s archives about Ginestet ; that former was the main banker of the company, ahead

of BNP and Crédit agricole. See H. Bonin, La Société bordelaise de CIC, 1881-1991, éditions L’Horizon chimérique, Bordeaux,

1991. Most of the debt came from the financing of piled up wines (owing to warrant credits).

5. Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton or LVMH controls champagnes Moët & Chandon, cognacs (Hennessy, Hine) ; and the group

or sometimes its president himself owns some grands crus (Château Latour, Château Yquem).

6. Cf. Hubert Bonin, Marie Brizard, 1755-1995, éditions L’Horizon chimérique, Bordeaux, 1995.

7. That text has been written in common with Christian Delpeuch and Pr. Hubert Bonin – who is preparing a large study about

the institution gathering any professionals of bordeaux wine economy, the Centre interprofessionnel des vins de Bordeaux (C.I.V.B.) ;

Ginestet company has provided documents about its past and recent evolution.


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