The latest sales data from Bordeaux’s Wine Bureau (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, CIVB) revolves around a central theme: wine shortages due to unexpected weather.
Bordeaux’s 2017 harvest was one of the lowest on record, mainly due to a late spring frost which destroyed 39% of the grape crop, compared to the previous year. While CIVB President, Alain Sichel, said that particular frost episode was not unique and could not be directly linked to climate change, it the episode is clearly part of broader changes in weather patterns, ones that the region’s wine growers are working hard to adapt to.
Speaking to Meininger’s on Tuesday, Sichel said the most direct impact of the low volume harvest was at the domestic level. In the 12 months to September 2018, as supermarket wine buyers began to understand the frost’s impact and the probable increase in prices that would go hand in hand with a shortage, sales of Bordeaux to national retail outlets fell 5% in volume and 1% in value. On the upside, Sichel said that meant Bordeaux was less present in the under-€3.00 category, where the region is loath to be. Or as Sichel put it: “it’s a question of keeping the right balance” across all price points. What would be ideal, he added, is “a full harvest and to stay in the three euro-plus category.”
On the export side, lower volumes also played a contributing role to a softening of Chinese demand. “There’s the low volume harvest,” said Sichel,”‘but there’s also the cooling of the Chinese economy, the unfavourable forex rate between the euro and the yuan [renminbi] and the removal of import duties from Australian and Chilean wine [imports],” which EU wines still pay, making them more expensive.
By contrast, and arguably driven by climate change upsides, Sichel said sales to the US continued to be a bright spot, with an increase of 4% in volume and much larger jump of 22% in value mainly due to the much lauded 2015 and 2016 harvests. These two vintages, said Sichel, have helped boost sales in all price categories, not just the top end.