France is still the world's biggest wine producer, but the industry is in crisis. Too many producers have been bringing down quality and price. But now some French wine-growers are fighting back to reclaim market share...
In this Bordeaux vineyard, no green shoots have emerged yet. You might think that means this is the quietest time of the year for wine growers.
But in fact, right now is the most important time of the year for them. At the famous Medoc Chateau de Malleret, all appears peaceful - but just behind in the converted stables is a gathering of the world's most important wine traders and brokers. They are testing hundreds of different varieties of the 2009 vintage, 18 months before the wine is put on the market.
Thierry Gardinier is President of the Medoc Wine Growers Association. He says, "It’s the week where all the buyers from all over the world come to Bordeaux to taste the wine, and from that tasting they will decide if the quality they have tested is great or not. And from that tasting the market decision will be taken in the coming weeks."
After several poor years, first impressions are that the experts like what they are tasting. This means prices will rise. Michael Osborn is the biggest wine importer in the United States. He has given his thumbs-up, saying, " The vintage is beautiful. It’s exceptional across the board."
Like other wine-growing regions of France, Bordeaux has lost market share to new world regions. Bordeaux simply had too many producers who were making too much average wine. Around 15 percent of them have now been encouraged to rip up their vines for good, allowing the industry to focus on improving quality.
Bruno Von Der Heyden, who produces Medoc wine, says quality has now improved in the Bordeaux vineyards, thanks to changes in the local industry.
The presence of so many Asian wine importers is good news for the Bordeaux wine industry. The high value of the euro made it very expensive to sell French wine outside of Europe. But with the dramatic fall in the euro this year, French wine is becoming more competitive again.
Ironically, however, there is one market the French wine-growers have not recaptured - their own. French wine consumption has halved since the 1980s.
Date created : 2010-04-02