Thursday, February 24, 2005

News from Bordeaux

Well, the Minister hasn’t gone hog wild & accepted all that was put on the table, but at least he’s stated that the Ministry will evaluate the CIVB proposal for more autonomy.

This is still only one small step toward revamping the French wine industry and making it competitive again. Having doubled the financial incentive for vignerons to remove uneconomic vineyards is great! So far they’ve “encouraged” a mere 200 hectares of their 10,000 hectare target – and hopefully this will help that total along. The fact that Bordeaux will be removing only ~8% of it’s vineyards will have some positive impact on it’s current glut…although I fear that those who won’t take the incentive are those who planted vines of marginal quality in the first place, only looking to make a quick buck trading on Bordeaux’s reputation.

The process of distilling off 500,000 hl ~ 1 million hl may buy some time for the wine industry, but I have a feeling that the flip side of the story from Cognac has been unreported as yet…
Having 13 to 26 million liters of white brandy hit their industry will have some significant impact upon their markets (unless the gov’t is potentially looking to turn it into fuel additives & disinfectants). That's 220,000 to 440,000 additional barrels, or 5.6 to 11.2 million cases just to put it into perspective! Granted it's not from their appellation and will be bulk alcohol base (non oak aged), but still it should have some impact. For all that Bordeaux celebrates in this process of reduction, Cognac and other distillers should be wary.

But the real hope for France lies in being able to alter their marketing (new Vin du Pays Bordeaux), and with greater ability to change the blends they bring to market. The proposal by the CIVB (I think) indicates that some majority of the producers feel that they should be able to make decisions about their blends (and viniculture generally) without interference from the national government. Some changes can be made to their viticulture, but there’s more reluctance on that part (other than ripping out vineyards of lesser quality), as well as some conditions which are imposed by nature, traditions, & their climate.

DECANTER article also features this quote at it’s end:
'The current crisis stems from France's over-centralised, inefficient regulatory system, rather than foreign competition,' says Feredj. 'Bordeaux has a long history of selling wines abroad. We're in difficulty now not because we don't know how to sell wine, but because we're not able to adapt our products to international demand.'
Foreign competition is most definitely part of the crisis. Needing to update their selling & marketing of wine internationally is also part of it.

However, not acknowledging these last two points is a BIG problem.


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