Better Beaujolais Nouveau to perk up sales slide

17th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

LYON, Nov 17 (AFP) - Beaujolais Nouveau 2004 was set to flow from midnight Wednesday, but this year's launch could be soured by the gloom brought to the sector by sliding prices and exports.

LYON, Nov 17 (AFP) - Beaujolais Nouveau 2004 was set to flow from midnight Wednesday, but this year's launch could be soured by the gloom brought to the sector by sliding prices and exports.

Partly to tackle this crisis but also to help "preserve the commercial bubble" that the Beaujolais Nouveau run has become, the region's 3,600 winegrowers are working to improve the wine's quality.

Selective harvesting to limit the yield is one of the ways they hope to bolster the future of the commodity that has turned into a global marketing phenomenon.

"It's a real turning point, very perceptible this year in the sale of sorting material and the way which the wine growers harvested," Ghislain de Longevialle, vice-president of the Inter Beaujolais group said.

It all adds up to showing "a will to build a future for our vineyards," he said.

As per tradition, the vintage goes on sale both in France and abroad on the third Thursday of November. As the clock strikes midnight (2300 GMT), about 56 million bottles of the wine will go on sale, of which nearly half are for export.

But falling prices in recent days is worrying the winegrowers who are being offered a price of EUR 140 (USD 180) per hectolitre, "an offer that is 25 percent below the normal price" of EUR 175, the industry said.

Last year, the price stood at EUR 200 and that was a year hit by a very hot summer and lack of rainfall.

For leading Beaujolais merchant Georges Duboeuf, Japan has, for the first time pushed the United States off the top market position with nearly three million bottles sold, or nearly 50 percent more than in 2003.

"It's the festive notion, the notion of pleasure having an effect on the Japanese market," de Longevialle said.

The US market also continues to see "constant progression", he said. Duboeuf family merchants said they had sold five percent more Beaujolais to the United States this year.

However, Franck Duboeuf, son of the founder, acknowledged that the market was difficult "even though Beaujolais has only a little competition", namely the "Vino Novello" sold a little earlier in Italy.

Demand in traditional market places for Beaujolais Nouveau has seen a drop, he noted.

Germany, Italy and especially Britain which helped contribute to the wine's success in the 1970s by organising highly-publicised stunts to get the first bottle back to their countries have all fallen off.

In Britain, sales have slipped by 30 percent this year while Australian wines that begin being delivered from June are growing, he added.

But in emerging market countries, such as Poland and Russia, and in South Korea, demand for Beaujolais Nouveau is increasing.

Beaujolais Nouveau, grown in a region just south of Burgundy, is made from Gamay grapes picked in the late summer and early autumn, and vinified to be bottled and drunk before Christmas.

In 2003, turnover from the sale of Beaujolais nouveau reached EUR 86 million.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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