Southern French Wine Regions Announce €34M Recovery Plan

At a press conference May 29, members of the southern French wine industry agreed on a comprehensive plan which will aid the sector following the coronavirus disruption.

The “unprecedented” scheme aims to safeguard jobs, boost sales and help the region and its wine producers regain market share over the next 18 months.

Furthermore, it intends to help companies develop multi-year trading partnerships, increase the rate of premiumization in the wines, and safeguard the production of the region’s distinctive dessert wines (vins doux naturels).

The scheme has the backing of the regional council, regional business and marketing boards, wine industry trade unions, the regional Chamber of Agriculture and wine trade bodies including Inter Oc (Interprofessional Council of wines from the Pays d’Oc), IVSO (Interprofessional Council of Wines from the South West of France), CIVL (Interprofessional Council of  Languedoc Wines), CIVR (Interprofessional Council of Roussillon Wines) and the Gardoise, part of Inter Rhône.

A total of €14 (€7m each) will be coming from the Regional Council of Occitanie and business and marketing boards.

Support will be given to companies to assist them with their marketing expenses, including participating in trade fairs, while €0.5m will also be allocated towards a campaign promoting the region’s wines. 80% of the budget (the €14m) will take the form of direct aid for businesses.

A further €20m will come from wine trade bodies. Inter Oc is contributing €14m, while the CIVL, CIVR and IVSO are each giving €2m to the cause.

The recovery plan will be presented to the vote of regional elected representatives in July.

Languedoc winemaker, Gérard Bertrand, said: “The region and all the players in the Occitanie wine sector have come together and mobilized to collectively build a stimulus plan of unprecedented scale in France with regards to the resources that have been contributed.

“With direct aid for wine companies, in particular for marketing, collective actions and promotion, we are ready to act on all fronts: to secure jobs, promote local development of activities and stimulate the reconquest of markets in France and internationally.”

In addition to national government schemes, the region has been supported by a number of measures during the Covid-19 crisis. Wine firms have been able to take advantage of the Fonds de Solidarité Régional (Regional Solidary Funds) which gives aid to businesses who have not had access to a state-guaranteed loan (PGE). Companies have also been given extensions, postponements or exemptions from loan repayments. In addition, the Solidarité Alimentation Occitanie, launched in March, has helped promote local deliveries in order to for the economic activity in the region to be maintained.

Occitanie is the administrative region formed in 2016 from the merger of the Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées regions

It comprises over 270,000ha, producing 14m hectolitres of wine, and boasts 93 appellations including 59 PDOs. It is viticulturally diverse, with some 150 native and international grape varieties grown. Around 22,600 wine-related companies operate in the region – employing 100,000 people – with a turnover of €1.3 billion. Wine grapes represent 20% of agricultural production in the region (in 2017) and wine worth €925m was exported in 2018.

Sources:  Drinks Business and the Regional Council of Occitanie

 

Pau Roca, Director General of OIV gives his overview of the 2019 global wine sector and the impact of Covid-19

Speaking from the OIV’s [International Organisation of Vine and Wine] headquarters in Paris, by web conference to over 3,000 international wine journalists, and trade, Director-General Pau Roca presented today [April 23, 2020] details of the 2019 wine production, consumption, and international trade. The impact of Covid-19 in the sector was also highlighted.

Here are the important facts and highlights of today’s Conference:

  • The surface area of the world vineyard is estimated at 7.4 mha, which has been stable since 2016;
  • World wine production is estimated at 260 mhl, a marked decrease, compared to 2018 historically high;
  • World wine consumption is estimated at 244 mhl, marking a +0.1% with respect to the previous year;
  • The world wine export market has expanded both in volume, estimated at 105.8 mhl (+1.7%), and in value with 31.8 bn EUR (+0.9%);
  • 2020 Harvest – first estimates of wine production in the Southern Hemisphere indicate low expected volumes for 2020 (with the exception of South Africa and Uruguay).

Vineyard area stabilization

In 2019 the world area under vines, corresponding to the total surface area planted with vines for all purposes, including young vines not yet in production, is estimated 7.4 mha.

Starting with the Northern Hemisphere, overall stability can be observed in the European Union (EU) vineyards, which stands for the fifth consecutive year at 3.2 mha.

Within the EU, the latest available data for 2019 indicates an increase in the area under vines in France (794 kha), Italy (708 kha), Portugal (195 kha), and Bulgaria (67 kha). The vineyard surface area in Spain (966 kha), Hungary (69 kha) and Austria (48 kha), on the other hand, slightly decreased from 2018.

In East Asia, after over 10 years of significant expansion, the growth of Chinese vineyard (855 kha), second in the world by surface area just behind Spain, seems to be slowing down.

In the United States, the vineyard has been consistently decreasing since 2014, and its estimated surface area in 2019 is 408 kha.

In South America, developments in vineyard surface area between 2018 and 2019 showed a downward trend for the fourth year in a row.

The only exception in the continent is represented by Peru that increased by 7.1 kha (+17% / 2018) its vineyard surface area reaching 48 kha.

South Africa’s vineyard surface area remained stable with respect to 2018, at 128 kha.

Australia the area under vines remained stable at 146 kha in 2019; while New Zealand the surface area grew by 1.6 % reaching a record-high of 39 kha.

Production back to the average

World wine production, excluding juices and musts, in 2019 is estimated at 260 (259,0) mhl, marking a sharp decrease of 35 mhl (-11.5%) with respect to the exceptionally high volume recorded in 2018. Overall, after two consecutive years that can be defined as extremely volatile, 2019 brings global wine production back to average levels.

Italy  (47.5  mhl), France (42.1 mhl), and Spain (33.5  mhl), which together account for 48% of world wine production in 2019, saw a sharp decrease in their wine production with respect to 2018.

Other EU countries that registered a decrease in production with respect to 2018 are Germany (9.0 mhl, -12%), Romania (5.0 mhl, -4%), Austria (2.5 mhl, -10%), Hungary (2.4 mhl, -34%) and Greece (1.9 mhl, -8%). The only EU country that, in 2019, saw an increase in its wine production is Portugal with 6.7 mhl (+10% / 2018).

In Eastern Europe, weather conditions were favourable in Russia (4.6 mhl, +7% / 2018) and Ukraine (2.1 mhl, +6% / 2018), while in Moldova the harvest was less abundant in 2019 and the vinified production was equal to 1.5 mhl (-23% / 2018).

In Asia, the new data available for China indicate an estimated vinified production of 8.3 mhl in 2019, marking a decrease of -10% with respect to the already relatively low production level of 2018.

In North America, wine production in the USA is estimated at 24.3 mhl, a decrease of 2% compared to 2018. This slight decline in 2019 does not depend on bad weather conditions or the raging fires that occurred in California (harvest was just before), but it is a response to overcome an oversupply of grapes and wine.

In South America, the overall trend for wine production in 2019 is negative with respect to 2018. However, while in Argentina (13.0 mhl) and in Chile (12.0 mhl) 2019 vinified productions are lower with respect to 2018 but overall in line or even higher than their five-year averages, Brazil (2.0 mhl) registered a sharp decrease in its wine production in 2019 of more than 1 mhl (-34% / 2018).

In South Africa, 2019 production reached 9.7 mhl. This represents an increase of +3% with respect to the low volume registered in 2018, but it is still far from the average production levels recorded before the beginning of the drought that heavily impacted the country for three years in a row (2016, 2017 and 2018).

With regard to Oceania, Australian wine production registers a decline for the second consecutive year reaching 12.0 mhl in 2019 (-6% / 2018). In New Zealand wine production was 3.0 mhl in 2019, a slight decrease of -1% with respect to 2018.

Expansion of the international trade of wine

In 2019 the world wine export market – considered here as the sum of the exports of all countries – has expanded with respect to 2018 both in volume, estimated at 105.8 mhl (+1.7%), and in value, with 31.8 bn EUR2 (+0.9%).

Strong increases can be observed in exports from Italy (+2.0 mhl), Spain (+1.3 mhl), Canada (+0.4 mhl) and Chile (+0.3 mhl). However, significant reductions in exports are recorded for Australia (-1.1 mhl), South Africa (-1.0 mhl), Ukraine (-0.4 mhl) and Hungary (-0.3 mhl).

In 2019 the global value of wine exports is on the sustained growth path started in 2010 reaching a new record high. France was still the most important world exporter in terms of value, with 9.8 bn EUR exported in 2019. There were rises in the value of exports in many large exporting countries like France (+425 m EUR), Italy (+211 m EUR), and New Zealand (+84 m EUR). The largest declines include Spain (-234 m EUR) and South Africa (-73 m EUR).

In 2019 the international trade of wine in terms of volume was mainly dominated by three European countries – Italy, Spain, and France – that together exported 57.1 mhl, accounting for 54% of the world market.

In 2019 the top three importers in terms of volumes were Germany, the UK, and the USA, which together imported 40.4 mhl, reaching 38% of world total. These three countries represent 39% of the total value of world wine imports, reaching 11.9 bn EUR.

The first importer in 2019 is still Germany with 14.6 mhl, even if its wine import volume decreases by 0.6% compared to 2018.

China for the second consecutive year saw a significant decline in its imported volumes (-11% / 2018), reaching 6.1 mhl in 2019. In terms of value, the trend is similar, with an overall downfall of -9.7% compared to 2018, reaching 2.1 bn EUR. The only category that increased both its volume (+8%) and its value (+8%) is sparkling wine, although it represents only 2% of the total imported volume.

Early estimates of the 2020 harvest in the Southern Hemisphere

First estimates of wine production in the Southern Hemisphere indicate low expected volumes for 2020 for the majority of countries, with the exception of South Africa and Uruguay.

In 2020 a decline in production volumes in all South American countries, with the exception of Uruguay, are expected. In Argentina estimated production is 11.6 mhl (-11%), in Chile 10.5 mhl (-12%) and in Brazil 2.0 mhl (-1%), while in Uruguay 0.65 mhl (+11%).

South Africa seems to continue its recovery path from the drought and expects +5% with respect to last year, reaching 10.2 mhl.

In Oceania, Australia expects a lower production level in 2020 estimated at 11.5 mhl (-4%) due to drought and bushfires while in New Zealand (2.9 mhl, -2%) expectations on wine production are by and large in line with 2019, or just below.

These are preliminary estimates and should be interpreted with caution,  given the current exceptional circumstances.

Impact of Covid-19 in the wine sector

At this early stage the information and statistical data available are insufficient to provide an accurate forecast and anticipate the scenario of the vitivinicultural sector in the future. However, due to communication with OIV members (“Member States”), the OIV has certain qualitative information at its disposal.

The feedback given by the Member States reflects a radical change or transfer between distribution channels. The expected overall balance is a decrease in consumption, a reduction in average prices, and therefore an overall decrease in total sales value, turnover, margins and finally profits of the wineries.

As far as exports are concerned, economies in recession are not a promising market to develop, and during this pandemic, the largest consuming countries have been the most affected. Trade flows may recover along with the economy, but some permanent changes could occur.

Alcohol consumption is also being debated. Messages on the positive effects of wine consumption are totally unacceptable and irresponsible.

The same applies to the issuing, under these circumstances, of general statements or biased messages that are the result of ideological concerns about wine consumption, such as abstention.

The OIV’s work follows the Strategic Plan approved by the General Assembly in October 2019 and covers a 5-year period until 2024. In the current context, the objectives and goals of the OIV go hand in hand with the needs that this crisis has highlighted.

The OIV is the intergovernmental organization of scientific and technical nature of recognized competence for its work concerning vines, wine, wine-based beverages, and other vine-based products. It is composed of 47 Member States. In the framework of its competence, the objectives of the OIV are as follows:

  • to inform its members of measures whereby the concerns of producers, consumers and other players in the vine and wine products sector may be taken into consideration;
  • to assist other international organizations, both intergovernmental and non-governmental, especially those that carry out standardization activities; and
  • to contribute to international harmonization of existing practices and standards and, as necessary, to the preparation of new international standards in order to improve the conditions for producing and marketing vine and wine products, and to help ensure that the interests of consumers are taken into account.

The Bourgogne Wine Sector Stands Ready — New Working Practices on Estates to Face the Health Crisis

Since France has ground to a near-halt under Covid-19 confinement measures, growers and négociants in Bourgogne have continued to work, introducing some ingenuity. This is essential because the vines continue to grow; there is work to be done in the cellar, and because one also has to think about when normal business resumes. In Bourgogne, growers and négociants are adhering to strict safe distancing measures both in the vines and the winery.

Activity accelerating in the vines

The hashtag #LaVigneContinue exists for a good reason: Nature cannot be confined! Especially in the springtime, when the sap rises, and the buds emerge from their downy cocoons. In each plot, there is work to be done. The cuttings must be cleared after pruning, trellising must be repaired, the canes need tying up, the ground needs plowing. After budburst, the excess buds and suckers will need to be removed.

Growers and négociants in Bourgogne are continuing to work as far as possible and adapting to the situation. Nicolas Rossignol, in Gevrey-Chambertin, has reorganized his team: “I have asked everyone to use their personal vehicle to get around. In the vines, it is one to a plot, or else we leave two or three rows between us (2 to 3m) if we have to work in the same place. In addition to tying up and fixing trellising, we are also starting to plow. I have two tractors, so each driver has their own.”

And for a touch of local ingenuity, he reveals that instead of using commercial hand-sanitizer, he dug out some of the “head” distillation liquid from a batch of marc de Bourgogne. “It’s around 80% alcohol, so it’s ideal for disinfecting hands and equipment. In the same vein, we no longer eat together. Since we’ve had fine weather, everyone has lunch outside. You just have to go one at a time into the kitchen to reheat your dish.”

There are some unexpected obstacles to manage, such as hiring a seasonal worker to make up for the absence of an employee who has to stay at home to look after children while the schools are closed.

In wineries that have larger teams of staff, managers have also had to adapt. With 10 or more employees, flexibility is the order of the day. Working times are staggered to avoid encountering coworkers, and those who are partially occupied looking after children come into work when they can, including on weekends. Nicolas Rossignol concludes: “The growth cycle has begun, although the cold which came at the start of last week slowed it a little. But overall, we are working at the same pace as usual.”

Complex adaptation for shipments

During this season, activity in the cellar is calmer. The wines are in the middle of aging, and the main task is topping up barrels. This only usually requires one person. Other lower-priority tasks can wait.

The area of bottling, labeling, and shipping poses another set of challenges. Some companies are carrying on, anticipating that others will resume activity a fortnight from now. But whatever the task, managers are attentive to maintaining safe distances between employees, and respecting all the recommendations from the Ministry of Health. The essential thing is looking after the health of staff.

On the commercial front, there are fewer orders than usual. Some transporters continue to make deliveries, while certain international orders have been put on one side, ready to go as soon as international transport resumes.

“We know the current situation is only temporary, and we are ready to respond to increased demand as soon as it comes,” said Louis-Fabrice Latour, President of the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) and CEO of the Louis Latour wine house. “Managers of wineries and estates are keeping a close eye on when normal production activity can resume, whilst ensuring the health and safety of all concerned.”

On behalf of the whole wine sector, he added: “We are aware of all the efforts being made, on all levels, for France to emerge from this health crisis as quickly and in the best shape possible. We will contribute to this return to normal. We are also greatly appreciative of all of those who are taking care of us and our families.”

Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) launches updated (free) online course

Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB has updated several e-learning modules to help both wine lovers and trade to become ‘experts in 90 minutes’

Burgundy’s regional wine board, the BIVB, states that its 90-minute online course was updated last week with new content and information on appellation rule changes. The online course was originally launched a decade ago and was mainly aimed at professionals, it is free for anyone to complete.

Each of the four modules takes around 20 minutes to complete, and there is a quiz at the end and the course is available in French, English, Chinese, and Japanese. Modules range from ‘Discovering Bourgogne’, which runs through the key grape varieties, appellations and terroirs of Burgundy, to food pairing advice and tasting wine.

It can take many years to learn about the intricacies of Burgundy wine, from its appellations and stylistic nuances to the precise location of its patchwork quilt of climats along the Côte d’Or, south of Dijon.

However, the BIVB states that the online modules are a fun way for both wine lovers and professionals to understand more about the region, and “90 minutes is all it takes to become an expert in Bourgogne wines.”

The course is available via the e-learning section of the BIVB website

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