Feb 07: The very name of Bordeaux conjures up images of the Five classified Growths of Bordeaux, Petrus, Le Pin and Cheval Blanc which command astounding prices in the market place, making Bordeaux an aspirational brand in India for years, but on the other end of the spectrum is Bordeaux where a majority of producers find it hard to sell their wines and the plummeting prices of up to less than one Euro a liter, have made many producers shut shop, writes Subhash Arora
French financial newspaper Les Echos reported last week that the price of bulk wines from Bordeaux had fallen to less than €1 a liter, with a possibility that they could fall even lower. Though organic and biodynamic wines had their prices steady at around three times the price of regular wines, fall in prices has taken a heavy toll on hard working winemakers who find it hard to sustain at these prices and are shutting shop with no signs of any immediate reprieve. CIVB, the inter-professional body of Bordeaux has even stopped publishing the bulk-wine prices in local newspapers, as has been a past practice, according to Wine Searcher.
Wine in Bordeaux is traditionally traded as a ‘tonneu,’ equivalent of 4 standard barriques of 225 Liters each. The price fell from €1215 in 2015 to €930 per tonneu for the 2018 vintage in December though Les Echos reported transactions at even €800 with some as low as €700. Some did not find buyers even at that level. Generally, it is considered to be precarious at under €1000 when one cannot even pay oneself salary.
CIVB president Olivier Farges says the problem is not so much of stocks but that of a sluggish market and buyer apathy. But Loic Pasquet, owner of Liber Pater, the winery in Graves, Bordeaux selling his 2015 Chateau wine for a princely price of €30,000 a BOTTLE seems to disagree. So where does the problem lie and how has he tackled it, being in the industry for less than 15 years while there are many who have been running it for generations in their family?
‘There has been devaluation of wine for the generic Bordeaux style wines with similar grapes and due to a major flaw in our system there has been a lack of interest in our wines. There is a glut of wine with the current oversupply of indistinguishable and undistinguished wine,’ says Loic who is reputed to price his unique Bordeaux wine as perhaps the most expensive wine of the recent vintages in the world at €30,000 a bottle, using autochthonous grapes with ungrafted wines, offering authentic pre- 1855 Classification wines- a rarity.
He is a staunch critic of CIVB and French wine regulatory bodies and is certain where the problem lies. At these ridiculously low prices, wine is ‘cheaper than water’, he told delWine in a long chat. Explaining further, he says, "It's the result of INAO and CIVB policies during the last 15 years that has taken a heavy toll on wines– like the infamous 'typicity' rules enacted in 2009 in the appellation’s technical requirements.’
With a note of sarcasm he adds, ‘this simplification of the taste was advocated by the CIVB, which spends €7 million telling the world that Bordeaux is 'Many châteaux, one style'. It's the negation of the specificity of place, the negation of 'climat'. You can easily foresee that the arrival of hybrids will finish this imposition of a ‘typical’ wine, an industrial wine. It’s the death sentence of Bordeaux, signed by our own institutions."
‘If you have talent and work on the expression of the terroir you must produce Vin de France.
Bordeaux AOC is not about quality. The norms for AOC are a guarantee to have industrial wine. Vin de France it is the guarantee to have a quality wine because we can work with native varieties with ancestral methods and with more flexibility. When you make a typical wine you make an industrial wine. You can make Merlot everywhere in the world, Why would any country pay €2,000 per tonneu (900 liters) if you can buy it for €600 (international bulk wine price).’
Indian market still loves Bordeaux as a brand but when it comes to pricing, the tax regime prohibits the expensive varieties and classed Growths. Therefore, more and more wine coming from Bordeaux is this bulk wine that retails for as low as Rs. 1200 a bottle. Since private labels are also possible, more and more importers seem to be going for these labels. The wine ignorant consumer is lured into buying this wine, validating the claim by Farges that the future of wine is in Brazil and India but the quantities are not as optimistic-at least not in India for the next 10 years.
Organic and biodynamic wines are holding their ground with the bulk wine prices at 3 times that of inorganic wines. But due to heavy taxation they don’t find many takers.
Loic Pasquet was a special guest at the 2nd delWine Summit and Excellence Awards held at Pullman New Delhi Aerocity last April. He is expected again this year at the 3rd edition and will speak about Bordeaux wines and the differentiator they need to regain the past glory-editor
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