Bordeaux wine-growers vote sales boycott

2nd December 2005, Comments 0 comments

BEYCHAC-ET-CAILLAU, France, Dec 2 (AFP) - Bordeaux winegrowers voted Friday to block sales of their popular reds as a protest against a dramatic fall in prices that is threatening their livelihoods.

BEYCHAC-ET-CAILLAU, France, Dec 2 (AFP) - Bordeaux winegrowers voted Friday to block sales of their popular reds as a protest against a dramatic fall in prices that is threatening their livelihoods.

Members of the Union of Bordeaux and Superior Bordeaux Wines (SVBBS) -- representing 6,700 of the region's 10,000 winegrowers -- agreed to impose the unprecedented measure to demand a minimum price of EUR 1,000 euros per barrel of red Bordeaux wine. A barrel currently goes for EUR 700.

The vote means the Union will not issue the coveted AOC label of origin for bottles of Bordeaux, without which the wine loses much of its value.

The boycott does not extend to Bordeaux white and rose wines, which account for a fraction of the region's output.

Bordeaux winegrowers are facing their worst crisis in 30 years because of over-production, a drop in exports and fierce competition from so-called New World wines from Australia, California, Chile and other countries.

Foreign sales of Bordeaux wines -- excluding the elite grands crus -- were down 17.7 percent in 2004, according to official figures, confirming a trend of decline.

Under the AOC system, wines must be approved for quality by a committee of experts, merchants and growers, and labels of origin are then delivered by a union such as the SVBBS. Without a certificate bottles remain simply table wines, which command much lower prices.

Bordeaux wine-growers accuse the region's powerful dealing companies of failing to defend their interests, but the criticism was rejected Thursday by the Union of Bordeaux Dealing Houses (UMB).

"We are sceptical both about the legality of this boycott and about its efficacity. In a global market you cannot dictate the price you want. It is the consumers who set the prices. They are a function of supply and demand," said UMB director Francis Cruse.

Sales of Bordeaux wines soared from the 1970s, reaching a peak of 2.5 million hectolitres in 1998, but they have since been in freefall -- and experts blame a number of structural handicaps in addition to competition from so-called "New World" wines.

These include the high cost of labour in France, the bewildering number of châteaux and other small producers, and a reluctance to follow consumer-friendly practices which are current abroad such as the addition of artificial tastes.

In June the government proposed measures to tackle the crisis in Bordeaux, including proposals to uproot large areas of vineyard and consign much of the surplus production to distillation.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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