We used this term last week in our review of the Contempo Petite Sirah.
A négociant is a wine merchant who gathers the grapes and juice from grower and winemakers and then sells the product under its own company name.
It can be hard to tell by looking at a label if the wine you’re drinking came from a winery, or if the grapes were grown and harvested, then sent to someone else to bottle and release. Look for terms like “cellared” on the label to determine if this has happened. If a label says estate grown and bottled you can be certain the wine is coming from a winemaker that has been involved in the process from the ground up.
Négociants can buy everything from grapes and grape must to wines in various states of completion. If buying grapes or must, the négociant performs almost all of the winemaking. There are some though who buy fermented wine in barrels or in bulk, and either age it, blend it with other wines or bottle the wine and sell it as is. They sell this product under their name, not where the wine came from.
While some in the industry might turn their noses up at négociants, they were relatively common until as recently as 25 years ago. They’re still around, although more and more you’re seeing labels touting a wine’s origins.
Négociants came to be because historically vineyard owners and the winemakers didn’t have access to buyers, so they needed a middleman to sell their product. It also was a cost-saving measure — wine presses and bottling machines are not cheap and often growers couldn’t afford this investment.
There still are many négociants in France, where they own their own vineyards. You probably even know some of their names, or have seen them on labels. Some better-known négociants include Louis Jadot and Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy and George DuBoeuf in Beaujolais.