Not so rosy for Beaujolais Nouveau this year

14th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

14 November 2007, LYON, France — Despite the release of a new rose Beaujolais Nouveau, sales of the light young wine, available from Thursday around the world, are expected to be hit this year by slackening demand in Japan, its biggest fan, a strong euro and hiking petrol prices.

14 November 2007

LYON, France — Despite the release of a new rose Beaujolais Nouveau, sales of the light young wine, available from Thursday around the world, are expected to be hit this year by slackening demand in Japan, its biggest fan, a strong euro and hiking petrol prices.

"For 2007 French orders are pretty much stable, but exports are slightly lower," said Franck Duboeuf, director of Duboeuf Wines one of the largest Beaujolais Nouveau merchants, and son of Georges Duboeuf, inventor of the trend.

Duboeuf senior came up with the idea in 1970, when he sent the first bottles of the unfinished, just harvested wine to Paris, accompanied by small leaflets announcing "Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrive" (The New Beaujolais Has Arrived). Since, sales peaked at 62 million bottles in 1998, making it one of France¹s bestselling wines ever.

French winery owner Georges Duboeuf

Duboeuf, who was last year fined 30,090 euros for incorrectly labelling and blending wines -- a charge he still denies -- is currently the subject of a new book, "I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine", published in the US last month.

In Japan, the world¹s biggest importers of Beaujolais Nouveau and always the first to taste it thanks to their time zone, sales reached 11 million bottles last year, down however from a peak of 12.5 million bottles in 2004.

This year exports are expected to fall by a further 20 percent, to 8.4 million bottles, according to Asahi Breweries Ltd, one of the Japanese importers of the wine. "The boom has calmed down and demand has stabilised," said a spokesman for the company.

The expected drop in demand was confirmed by the president of Inter-Beaujolais, the region¹s official wine body, Ghislain de Longevaille, who expects a 10 to 15 percent drop in the Japanese market this year.

Worrying factors in terms of exports, which represented 47 percent of sales last year, include both the rising value of the euro and higher petrol costs, says Franck Duboeuf.

Ashai Breweries say Japanese prices will be about 5 percent higher this year, bringing the cost of a bottle to about 15 euros or 2,500 yen. A spokesman for Japanese importer Suntory said "a strong euro may also be a negative factor for sales of Beaujolais Nouveau."

In the US, where 2.8 million bottles were sold last year, the euro will also drive prices up to 10 to 12 dollars this year, as opposed to under 10 in 2006.

*quote1*Any drop in sales will not be welcomed by the 2,500 Beaujolais growers, who have, along with other French winemakers, been hit by falling domestic sales and higher production costs.

"Almost 2,000 growers are in difficulty and having trouble making a living," said Bruno Matray, president of the Union Viticole du Beaujolais, the Beaujolais growers union. In the last two years between 150 and 200 properties have stopped production, Matray said.

National French food and drinks exports body, Sopexa, says however that predictions of a 20 per cent fall in sales may be overly pessimistic. "We have been waiting for a drop for two years but it hasn't happened yet," said Sopexa director in Japan, Jean-Charles Crouin, adding that 2004 was an exceptional year there due to a spike in demand after a shortage in 2003.

This year¹s wine is described as light with raspberry notes by Damien Gateau, a sommelier from Lyon, the capital of the Beaujolais region. And, for the first time ever, a rose version will be available in limited quantities.

The idea, said Inter-Beaujolais, is the result of increased demand in both Japan and France for pink wine.

Made from the same grape, gamay, as its red counterpart, some 400,000 bottles of Beaujolais rose will go on sale this Thursday  a fraction however of the red Beaujolais Nouveau sales which last year stood at 50 million bottles.

The first bottles of the 2007 vintage will be opened this year in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. In China tastings will be held in Peking and Shanghai.

In the US, the 19th Beaujolais Nouveau festival will be held in cities around the country including Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

AFP

Subject: French news

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