Xavier Leclerc is the Director of retail sourcing for the Auchan group.

He became the Mr. Wine of the mass-distribution group after managing the wine department of the Auchan hypermarket in Roncq (North of France), the number one store in Europe in wine turnover. He has been a taster at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles since 2006.

CMB: Can we quantify the influence of a medal on the consumer’s decision when buying wine in supermarkets ?

XL: The purchase of wine is the most anxiety-provoking purchase : consumers buy to please without having the knowledge and with the pressure to go make the wrong choice.

When visiting a wine department in a supermarkets, the consumer is faced with 80 references in his or her field of vision and 99% of our customers do not know wine, whether the appellations or the grape varieties.

At the risk of conveying a stereotype, I will be drawing a caricature, exagerated to make my point : imagine, I am a woman (in mass distribution on weekdays, 85% of our wine buyers are women), my husband (who does not necessarily know more than me but who gives the orders), asked me to buy a Châteauneuf du Pape for dinner. I am now lost in the wine department. I have to know that Châteauneuf is in the Rhône Valley and not in Burgundy even if the shape of the bottle is similar. Let’s say I start looking into the right region. I find I have four references in front of me, which one do I take? The most expensive to be sure, but is the price difference really worth the quality difference? The cheapest is likely to be the worst, so I’ll go for average ? Imagine the strength of a medal as a differentiator in this context.

I have seen it in context : at the same price and up to 15% more expensive, the medalist wine sells twenty times more. So as a buyer, we put a lot of importance on these distinctive signs.

CMB: Are all medals equal?

XL: As a professional, we judge in those competition and there are some that we prefer for the seriousness of their method and their organization. Among the international competitions, for me THE World Competition is Brussels. The quality of the tasters imposes a level of requirement with regard to one’s own palate which I have not encountered anywhere else. For me it is the most reliable medal and when we receive the results, I alert buyers to medal-winning wines in their area. The Concours Mondial is a selection tool for our ranges, for the year and for wine fairs.

CMB: And the notes?

XL: For me, the professionals want marks, but individuals want medals. Now I like to say that my boss is the customer, he is the one who pays me. So I want medals too.

CMB: What consumer trends are you seeing?

XL: We hear a lot that the consumer drinks less but drinks better and I can confirm this. My generation loves good wine and food and is ready to pay the price. This is even more true of my children, who are reaching the age of wine consumption. The average price spent by an 18-24 year-old for a bottle of champagne is 23 € when 40-55 year-olds spend an average of 18 €.