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French Wine Industry: A Strategic Plan to 2025 From FranceAgriMer

Who looks after the overall wellbeing of the French wine industry? The Interprofessions, INAO, DGDDI, and French Ministry of Agriculture, amongst others, are all involved in the collection of wine-related data. So there’s plenty of information available, but not always a great deal of in-depth analysis, at least not on a country-wide level.

France-Strategic-Plan-to-20Recently, FranceAgriMer took on the task of examining the current state of the French wine industry and coming up with a strategic plan suitable for carrying the industry forward through to 2025.  That’s a highly ambitious undertaking set within the overarching themes of: (1) Maintaining a sustainable National market; and (2) Increasing the value and volume in export markets.

The report opens with key figures about the current state of the French wine industry and acknowledges its weaknesses in a SWOT analysis.  These include: Erosion of export market share; Economic difficulties in some vineyards; Declining domestic consumption; High costs and low productivity compared to some competitors; and a regulatory framework which discourages innovation.

Following the scene setting SWOT analysis, the report follows the lines of a clasical management report with seven key thematic questions; five levers for addressing the two overarching themes; and 73 measures proposed to achieve 21 objectives … The objectives range from improving economic analysis to managing climatic risk; from encouraging innovation in the French wine industry to improving the health of French vineyards.  This is all good stuff, though most of it is (hopefully) also being considered by other generic wine organisations representing competitor countries.

So the details of implementation are really important and here the report feels threadbare.  Few would argue against more co-operation between Inter-professionals – but how exactly is this to be achieved?  And measures designed to manage climatic risk are surely to be welcomed –  but is proposing that adequate insurance cover be available a sufficient response?

Make up your own mind by reading the full report which is available to download here (PDF)

How the Beaujolais Wine Region has Evolved in the 21st Century

Beaujolais has many claims to being regarded as a classic wine region, but it’s one which has had its fair share of difficulties during the 21st century.  Continuing urban sprawl, low wine prices and Europe’s decreasing interest in the Beaujolais Nouveau campaign have all contributed to what has been described as a Crisis Viticole. This has led to difficult, sometimes tragic, human consequences for winegrowers.

As the official body for Beaujolais wines, Inter Beaujolais have been keenly promoting the region through participation in trade fairs, tastings and masterclasses.  They have kindly released basic data on vineyard area, production and sales which help paint a picture of how the region has developed during the early 21st century.

Beaujolais-Historical-VineyVineyard prices in Beaujolais have dropped significantly over the past 20 years  According to Lyon Capital, the price of generic Beaujolais vineyard has fallen on average from €38,000/ha in 1990 to €13,900 in 2010.  Over the same period the average sales price of Beaujolais Villages vineyard has fallen from €49,800 to €12,700.   Beginning in 2005, winegrowers were offered a compensation of €6,300/ha if they chose to pull up their vines.  With seemingly grim prospects, a number of winegrowers decided to quit.  This had the effect of reducing the total Beaujolais vineyard from around 23,000 ha in 2005 to around 17,000 ha today.  Most of the vines uprooted were located within generic Beaujolais vineyards (down ca. 34% since 2005) and Beaujolais Villages vineyards (down ca. 30% since 2005).  Beaujolais Crus vineyards have lost only ca. 7% of their area since 2005.

Beaujolais-Production Vintage effects have a marked impact on wine production from the region.  The European heatwave of 2003 resulted in a much smaller harvest (and also one with higher than normal sugar contents).  Wine production for Beaujolais totalled only 0.85 million hl in 2003, against an average of 1.3 million hl for the two years either side.  2012 was a particularly small harvest owing to a cold winter, spring frosts, and a damp, hail-prone, summer.  Aside from vintage variation, longer term trends in wine production are taking place as a result of the loss of vineyard area.  These changes have significantly altered the wine production profile of the Beaujolais region.  So, for example in 2011, for the first time more Beaujolais Crus wine was produced than generic Beaujolais wine.

Beaujolais-wine-yieldsFor some wine commentators, the future of Beaujolais lies not with its well known (but arguably devalued) Beaujolais Nouveau, but with its10 Crus AOPs.  In this regard there has been much talk about the Crus producing concentrated wines from low yielding vines.  Yet the available statistics seem to tell a different story.  Over the period from 2002 to 2012, white wine production (which is tiny) has been produced, as would be expected, at significantly higher yields than for red wines. Meanwhile average yields for generic Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Crus have historically shown little difference and there have been a number of years (e.g. 2006-2009) when the average yields from Beaujolais Crus have been higher than those from generic Beaujolais!  The future of the Beaujolais wine region may turn out to be determined largely by quality-minded producers located within the Beaujolais Crus.  But isn’t it time to drop the simplistic association of yield and quality?

WineStats would like to thank Charles Rimbaud and his colleagues at Inter Beaujolais for providing the vineyard area and wine production data used in this article.

Vineyard Area, Production and Wine Yields in Chablis’ AOPs

Chablis is an isolated wine region of northern France, arguably the most northerly region in Europe producing high quality, still table wine.  World-famous for its production of food-friendly dry white wines from Chardonnay grapes, it should display mouth-watering acidity, restrained fruit flavours and so-called mineral characteristics.  The region is divided into four Appellations d’Origine Protégée (AOPs), based on the perceived quality of the land for growing and ripening Chardonnay.

Area-Growth-by-AoPThe area of vineyards in Chablis has expanded enormously since 1970.  Then there were only 757 ha in production, but over the next 40 years this increased almost seven-fold to reach 5,043 ha in 2010.  By 1995, Chablis Grand Cru and Chablis Premier Cru were both at, or close to, their maximum delimited areas.  Additional growth since then has been of the less well-regarded Chablis and Petit Chablis AOPs.  The Chablis AOP had a production area of 3,318 ha in 2010.  Since the maximum limit for the Chablis AOP, as designated by the INAO, is 4,420 ha, there is still room for considerable future growth.  Similarly, Petit Chablis’ 2010 vineyard area of 843 ha still has some way to go before the INAO limit of 1,562 ha is reached.

Production-Growth-by-AoPThe increasing amount of grapes being grown in Chablis has allowed producers to ramp-up wine production.  In the early 1970s, total Chablis wine production was ca. 20,000 to 40,000 hl.  By 2006-2010 wine production had climbed to between 270,000 to 290,000 hl.  Prior to 1970, genuine Chablis (as opposed to, say, Gallo’s “Chablis” from California) was available to only a limited number of wine drinkers.  Now Chablis AOP and Petit Chablis AOP wines are produced in sufficient quantities to make them widely available in a variety of domestic and export markets.

Yields-by-AOCIn addition to increases in vineyard area and production, wine yield (expressed as hl/ha) has also shown a long-term upwards trend before levelling off at between ca. 50-60 hl/ha over the past 25 years.  Year-on-year climatic variations certainly play a role in determining the harvest size and complicating this picture, though perhaps not quite so much as might have been anticipated.  Following a series of poor harvests in 1977, 1978 and 1981, the Chablis region had a pretty good run until the heatwave vintage of 2003.

Although wine yield is but one of many factors influencing wine quality, it is often cited by wine critics and educationalists as being a critical one.  You might expect that within the Chablis region, wine yields within the AOPs would be arranged such that Chablis Grands Cru AOP would have the lowest yield and Petit Chablis AOP the highest.  Over the past quarter century Chablis Grands Cru AOP has indeed had the lowest wine yield, but there has been precious little difference between the wine yields of the Pemier Cru, Chablis and Petit Chablis AOPs.  Are producers of Petit Chablis AOP over-performing, or is wine yield not so relevant here? WineStats hasn’t been to sufficient Chablis tastings to have a view on this one.

WineStats would like to thank Cécile Mathiaud and Virginie Valcauda of the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) for kindly supplying some of the data used in this posting.