Bordeaux wine industry confidence lifted after strong harvest

The Bordeaux region is confident in its ability to maintain surging UK sales growth after enjoying a strong 2018 vintage. 

Exports to the UK are up 11% in volume and 17% in value for the year to July 2018, according to generic body the CIVB.

That is despite a short harvest in 2017 as yield fell 40% to 3.5 million hl as a result of frost. This year’s crop is back up to 5.1 million hl, which is in line with the 10-year average, and the CIVB is pleased with the quality.

President Allan Sichel told DRN: “We are excited by the 2018 vintage. We had a fantastic August and September, with lots of sunshine and some cool nights, which gives complexity and freshness to the wines. 

“We had a lot of concentration, small berries, thick skins, and those grapes make some very attractive wines. 

“We are expecting the reds to have a lot of fruit, with nice, rich aromas, neat, clean and full-bodied.”

The region was hoping to build up reserves this year to prepare it for any potential short harvests in future. At flowering stage, it thought it might be in for a bumper crop of 5.8 million hl, but mildew caused a significant loss of volume and brought it down to 5.1 million. 

“The whole of France doesn’t remember such a severe mildew episode, due to high temperatures and humidity,” said Sichel. “There is no doubt that over the past 15 years climate change has helped Bordeaux reach more regularly full maturity of the grapes, and we are getting these wines that are fruity, fragrant and well-balanced. 

“We are getting a long succession of successful vintages. The counterpart is we are also getting more violent climatic episodes, whether it be hailstones, frost damage, drought or this year’s mildew. 

“The best way to protect ourselves is by constituting stocks of wine to be released when another episode reduces the size of the harvest, but we probably won’t have any reserves from 2018.”

Sichel is encouraged by the positive results in the three key European export markets – the UK, Belgium and Germany – and he expects them to continue.

He said: “I remember buyers coming to Bordeaux a few years ago and being surprised by this new identity of Bordeaux wines that are fruit driven, well balanced and harmonious and provide a lot of pleasure. It takes time between the buyers to bring in those wines, expand Bordeaux visibility on the shelf, for the consumer to be confronted with it, to taste it, like it, then buy more.

“There’s an awful lot of inertia to get moving in the right direction, but now we are beginning to get there, and there’s no reason for that trend to be interrupted, because the quality of the wines is there, the pricing is stable and we have tools in place to provide the availability and that long-term perspective for everyone. We want Bordeaux to be seen as reliable, enjoyable and accessible in that middle segment at £7-20.”

UK market consultant Fiona Juby said the CIVB will continue to invest in the UK market after enjoying success with digital and face-to-face marketing. 

“We are using digital advertising on Youtube and digital sites and we are getting above-average viewing figures,” she said. 

“People are watching it to the end and engaging with the messages in the video. It’s about getting younger adults to consider it.”

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