Bordeaux facing lower harvest but higher prices

Thursday, 11. September 2008 - 13:00

by Sophie Kevany

Bordeaux is facing less surplus, higher prices and a shortage of whites, according to figures from the main producers union, released 10 September 2008. The figures, compiled by the Maison des Bordeaux et Bordeaux Supérieur, which has 5,500 members and represents over half of Bordeaux’s total production, covered both current market conditions and the upcoming 2008 harvest.

The existing balance between supply and demand for Bordeaux wines was much improved, with less surplus, said Bernard Farges, the Bordeaux union’s director. "Measures taken by producers such as distillation and pulling up of vines are at last showing results and the balance of stocks is now in line with needs,” he said.

The price per tonneau of basic classified, or AOC, red wines, which fell in the last few years to about €800 per tonneau (900 litres) due to over production,is now back up to about €1,000 per tonneau, Farges said.

For the 2008 harvest, the generally tricky weather conditions during 2008, including a frost in April, rain and the diseases associated with wet conditions, as well as a lack of sunshine, would all mean more low volumes.

However, domestic demand will also continue to be weak, Farges warned. "The French market is bad, particularly for supermarkets, and we will have to count on good exports,” he said.

Farges said it was too early to speculate on the quality of the red Bordeaux harvest, which he said would be down by about 10 to 15% in volume. The quality of the whites, already being picked, he said would be ‘excellent’, due to the cooler weather in August keeping flavours fresher.

White volumes, Farges said, would down by about 40% to 50% due to April frost. Despite this, he warned producers against ‘a catastrophe’ that could be caused by raising prices and losing market share, as happened in 1991.

France’s national wine body, Viniflhor, also announced earlier this week that the national French harvest could be one of the lowest ever, with only 43.6m hectolitres. The lowest ever, since 1974, was in 1991 when only 42.6m hectolitres were produced, again due to severe frost in April. The 2007 volume was 46.54m hectolitres, also considered lower than average.