France pours more aid as wine sector faces ‘Major Difficulties’

This week the government of France stepped up financial support for wine growers faced with a deep drop in demand after lockdowns closed restaurants and bars and U.S. tariffs curbed exports.

“The state will increase to 250 million euros its support plan to wine growing and we will request this aid to be distributed as quickly as possible because cash needs are pressing,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday.

Castex made the announcement during a visit to the Menetou-Salon and Sancerre vineyards in the Loire region.

“The international situation, the health crisis, a drop in exports: our wine sector faces major difficulties. State support must continue and intensify,” Castex said on Twitter earlier.

France has already provided some support, but the wine industry has called for more action.

In April, the European Commission decided to support crisis management measures in wine and other agriculture sectors affected by the coronavirus crisis.

In May, France cleared a 140 million euro ($165.87 million)crisis mechanism to distill surplus wine into industrial alcohol to be used to produce hand sanitizers.

Then in June, the government unveiled an additional 30 million euros of support for the wine industry, including 15 million for the launch of a private storage scheme for two million hectolitres of surplus wine, an alternative to distilling.

In addition to the impact of COVID-19, France’s wine industry has suffered from U.S tariffs on imports imposed as part of the trade dispute between the European Union and the United States over aircraft subsidies.

Source:  Reuters

 

The European Union Announces “Exceptional Support Measures” for Wine Sector

The Commission adopted yesterday an additional package of exceptional measures to support the wine sector, following the coronavirus crisis and its consequences on the sector. The wine sector is among the hardest hit agri-food sectors, due to rapid changes in demand and the closure of restaurants and bars across the EU, which was not compensated by home consumption.

These new measures include the temporary authorization for operators to self-organize market measures, the increase of the European Union’s contribution for wine national support programs, and the introduction of advance payments for crisis distillation and storage.

Janusz Wojciechowski, Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner states:“The wine sector has been among the sectors hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis and the related lockdown measures taken across the EU. The first package of market-specific measures adopted by the Commission has already provided significant support. Nonetheless, the uncertainties surrounding the scale of the crisis at EU and global level, and a close monitoring of the market has led us to propose a new package of measures for the wine sector. I am confident that these measures will provide rapidly concrete results for the EU wine sector and soon provide stability.”

The Exceptional Measures include:

  • Temporary derogation from the European Union’s competition rules: Article 222 of the Common Markets Organisation Regulation (CMO) allows the Commission to adopt temporary derogations from certain EU competition rules in situations of severe market imbalances. The Commission has now adopted such a derogation for the wine sector, allowing operators to self-organize and implement market measures at their level to stabilize their sector and in the respect of the functioning of the internal market for a maximum period of 6 months. For example, they will be allowed to plan joint promotion activities, to organize storage by private operators and to commonly plan production;
  • Increase of the European Union’s contribution: the European Union’s contribution for all measures of the national support programs will increase by 10% and reach 70%. A previous exceptional measure had already increased it from 50% to 60%. This will provide financial relief to beneficiaries;
  • Advanced payments for crisis distillation and storage: the Commission will allow Member States to provide advanced payments to operators for on-going distillation and crisis storage operations. These advances can cover up to 100% of costs and will allow Member States to fully utilize their national support program funds for this year.These measures complement the recently adopted package, which benefited the wine sector through the flexibility provided under market support programs. This included for instance an increased flexibility of tools to control production potential, the so-called green harvesting tool, and the possibility to include temporary new measures such as the opening of distillation of wine in case of crisis or an aid to crisis storage of wine.

In addition, the Commission also launched two calls for proposals for promotion that aim to support the sectors most affected by the crisis, including the wine sector. The two calls will be opened until 27 August 2020.
The commission said it is the first time that it has issued such calls. One call relates to ‘simple programs’, which can be submitted by one or more companies from the same EU country. The other relates to ‘multi programs’, which can be submitted by at least two companies from at least two EU member states, or by one or more European organizations. Janusz Wojciechowski, states that the first package of support measures had “already provided significant support”.

Champagne popping out of Covid-19 – Liz Palmer’s Presentation – Sparkling WINE Week July 1 2020

Sparkling WINE Week – July 1st 2020
Champagne Post COVID –
Session 3 – 15.30 – 16.00 Seminar: Champagne popping out of COVID-19  – Sparkling WINE Week Liz Palmer, Key Note Speaker

 Champagne Popping Out Of Covid-19

 Remember …only sparkling wine, from the Champagne region of France, can be called “Champagne”.

Brief Overview Of The Region

Location: the Champagne Region is located in the Northeastern part of France, about 1h30 from Paris by car and 45 minutes by TGV (high-speed train).

 Districts: The viticultural boundaries of Champagne are legally defined and split into 5 wine-producing districts: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The towns of Reims and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area. Reims is famous for its cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims – this was previously used for the coronation of the French Kings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Grapes: Three grapes are mainly used – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier.

Other approved varietals include: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane, and Petit Meslier

  • These together are less than 0.3% of plantings.

31% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay which performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk-slopes south of Epernay. Chardonnay produces lighter, fresher wines and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape used in Blancs de Blancs.  Note:  No other authorized white grapes, i.e., Pinot Blanc, Arbane, Petit-Meslier and Pinot Gris can be used in making a Blancs de Blancs.

Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 38% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends – it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and in the Aube district.

The final varietal is Meunier which accounts for nearly 31% of the plantings. This varietal is durable and resistant to spring frosts – found in Marne Valley. It produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks aging potential, but this does not deter Krug from including 15% of it in their final blends.

Champagne is a collective of over 16,000 growers and 340 houses. The region as a whole has put a proactive focus on climate change and sustainability since 2003 it was the first in the world to produce a carbon footprint assessment and identify the main sources of emissions in their systems. Based on learnings from the assessment, the region rolled out a plan to cut emissions by 75% by 2050. A nearer-term goal ensures that 100% of the area holds an environmental certification by 2030. (As of 2019, about a fifth of the region held a certification.)

Champagne Shipments

The latest shipment figures are attached [as at April 20, 2020] « too early to tell the effects » since 50% of the shipments occur between September – December 2019, the next figures are expected to be announced around the 10th/15th of July – so watch for this – usually published in French.

Going back to 2019 – Champagne reached its highest ever turnover, breaking the €5 billion mark for the first time in its history, while the start of this year was also very strong in terms of sales of the sparkling wine. The beginning of 2020 was good in terms of consumption – and now it’s a different story.

2020 Pandemic 

With gatherings over the past three months across large parts of Europe, and around the world, canceled or postponed, and bars and restaurants closed, it should come as little surprise that Champagne sales would be seriously affected, especially as the nation’s worst-hit by the pandemic are some of Champagne’s biggest markets: France, Italy, Spain, and the USA.

As a whole, the Champagne region immediately reacted when the W.H.O. declared a global health emergency with the coronavirus pandemic [January 30, 2020].  France announced the first coronavirus death in Europe [February 14, 2020].

What Initial Steps Were Taken? 

  • Adapted general safety measures in the vineyards and cellars, and made the continuation of the work possible.
  • established guidelines for « mating confusion » which usually is done by hand in large groups (the whole village at once).

What is mating confusion:  This technique is based on a natural insect (scent or aroma) pheromone which confuses a male butterfly into not mating with the female. If the insects don’t breed, they aren’t a threat to the vines – this is called sexual confusion.

Mating confusion was postponed a few times and eventually suspended and did not take place in many villages. Typically, the growers would rather take the risk to lose a percentage of their grapes to the insects, than giving up on a « biocontrol  – which is a component of an integrated pest management strategy. It is defined as the reduction of pest populations by natural enemies.

[Note: Champagne is the leading European country, in terms of surface, when it comes to mating confusion and half of their surfaces are under mating confusion].

  • During this time, the Comite Champagne reminded the growers and houses, of the strategic orientations of the region: growth in value rather than in volume.
  • During the crisis, the Champagne Region interacted with the French government, to ensure that economic measures were in place to support the domaines and wineries.
  • The Presidents and executive board members of the houses have clearly communicated that Champagne expects a fall of shipments by 100 million bottles (i.e. minus 30% to minus 35%) over the year, resulting in a loss of turnover of 1,7 Bn€.
  • During the months of April and May, Champagne has managed to establish an “adaptation” of the collective system which is aimed at ensuring the survival of the houses and companies, such as:The 2020 harvest will be bottled in two parts:

the first part, as usual, January 1st 2021;

with the second part to be bottled as of January 1st 2022

(ensuring that there is a reasonable level of production in 2020 (in order to sustain domaines and all players, who depend on selling grapes). This avoids providing the markets with too much wine.).

[Note: Currently there are almost 4 years of shipments in stock (or 1,43 Bn bottles)]

  • The French government was solicited to reinforce the “Loi EGalim” or “**EGalim Law”] in the French off-trade, because it has had, in the past, positive effects on the Champagne market overall by limiting extreme discounts.

**[in long form this represents – law for the balance of trade relations in the agricultural and food sector and healthy, sustainable, and accessible food for all].

  • The EGalim Law set recent promotions as follows: 1 bottle offered for 3 purchased, as opposed to « buy one get one free ».

[Note: This call to the government is a positive sign on Champagne being firm on its value growth strategy.] 

Increased Digital Activities

  • The growers, houses and the Comite Champagne have all changed the way they communicate including increasing their social media activities.
  • recently launched Champagne education platform [Mook] champagne-mooc.com.

Classic Version

Course in English with subtitled videos

Access to 4 educational modules

The Champagne making process

The Champagne terroir

History and Economy of Champagne

Diversity and Tasting

Free

A N D 

Premium Version

Course in English with subtitled videos

Access to the 4 educational modules of the classic version

Additionnal contents:

Extra videos

Test your knowledge

Get the official Statement of completion

49€ (taxes included)

Strategy – Post-COVID

  • The main driver to rebuild a « desire for Champagne » is to collectively build the visibility of Champagne as a region that has invested in an eco-friendly production management [this is a number one concern for consumers 25-35 years in many key markets] and Champagne as the drink for celebrations, and special moments, but also the drink to make moments special — Champagne as a treat during hard times, a break within the rush, a comforting drink, for some.
  • And as Louis Roederer’s cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon states “We make something which is not essential but, at the same time, it is essential for pleasure and bringing people together. We make a wine for celebration, so we decided that, in difficult times, it is important to do what we do and try and make an even better wine for the future.”
  • Some brands, including the Union of Growers have organized charities to support medical teams in the region.
  • The environmental effort of the region (previously mentioned), for the last 20 years and with objectives set for 2025, 2030, 2050, these strategic fundamentals are long-term.

Harvest 2020 

  • There was initially a challenge to get seasonal workers for the upcoming harvest above at least 50% of the 120,000 required. With most coming from Eastern Europe, it’s both a challenge to determine how and when they can travel to France, and then to implement social distancing which anticipated for the end of August. This is no longer an issue as the UE will be reopening and students will be available.  The challenge remains to implement social distancing.
  • This is a manual and collective task that can cause incredible logistic challenges (transportation and meals).

Champagne Tourism

  • When it comes to tourism the region has adapted the government guidelines to reopen and the sites have just started to open.

France is Europe’s most-visited country, making tourism a key pillar of the economy.

  • Experts say it’s too early to evaluate the full effect of the COVID-19 crisis, but the European Commission is already calling for a new “Marshall Plan,” using EU funds, to save the tourism industry.
  • Once the lockdowns are fully over, and plans for a vaccine are in place, we will all want to celebrate – with Champagne of course!

Sources:

Comite Champagne
Thibaut Le Mailloux
Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon

 

 

Liz Palmer

liz@liz-palmer

www.liz-palmer.com

US Drinkers Have Increased Wine Consumption During Lockdown

America’s 77 million regular wine drinkers upped their frequency of wine consumption during the pandemic lockdown, despite the closure of many on-premise establishments, according to new consumer research out this week.

The new Wine Intelligence US COVID-19 Impact Report polled a nationally representative sample of 2,000 monthly US wine drinkers during March and April 2020 to understand how their wine drinking behavior was changing as a result of the restrictions due to the coronavirus. The findings paint a picture of a nation finding new occasions for wine drinking – at lunchtime, or catching up with friends online, or replacing the trip to the restaurant with a more indulgent evening meal.

The growing volume of wine purchased was tempered by a small decline in the average price per bottle paid overall, according to the research. However, within this average were significant variations by consumer type. More involved and committed wine drinkers, who mainly spend between $15 and $20 per bottle normally, tended to spend a bit more than usual, while less frequent wine drinkers tended to spend a bit less.

There was significant growth in online shopping across all age groups, with the most likely users of online channels being younger, urban, affluent consumers. This same demographic, who in normal times are more likely to drink wine in social settings such as bars and restaurants, also tended to spend more on take-home purchases.

While the majority of respondents said the origin of wine they bought during this period stayed the same, there was a notable shift in purchase preferences towards domestic wines and away from imports. Some 18% of respondents reported buying more wine from California and other US regions during this time, while 20% said they were buying less wine from France, Italy and Spain. Additionally, US wine drinkers increased their trust in California wines and conversely, lost trust most among old world wines, particularly those from Italy.

Looking to the future, US wine drinkers, on the whole, expressed caution about going out to bars and restaurants immediately after lockdown restrictions were ended – around 40% said they would be less likely to visit a restaurant, while 27% said they would be more likely.

Analysis of this data suggests there is a distinct attitudinal contrast at work among consumers. At one extreme is an optimistic and active group who have made minimal changes to their lifestyle and are less nervous about returning to the on-premise – they tend to be younger, more affluent and city-based, and comprise about 17% of monthly wine drinkers. At the other extreme, 20% of monthly wine drinkers have reacted strongly to the lockdown, and have significantly cut down on spending and wine consumption, and are very reluctant to return to an active social life.

The Wine Intelligence US COVID-19 Impact Report will be published on the 6th of May 2020. It includes latest insights pre, during and predicted post-COVID-19 restrictions, including beverage repertoire, wine buying and consumption behaviors, brand health and lifestyle behavior changes.

Commenting on the report, Wine Intelligence CEO Lulie Halstead said: “Our data supports other evidence that shows that US wine drinking is holding up and that sales will continue to be solid once lockdown ends. In fact, there are clear opportunities with certain consumer segments right now and also in the medium term as we move to post-lockdown behavior. Looking ahead, the US wine drinker is understandably quite cautious about their household finances and the idea of getting on a plane. Thankfully for the wine category, their intention seems to be replacing big treats like vacations and big events with small treats like a nicer bottle of wine.”

Source:  Wine Intelligence

WineAmerica discloses how wineries are being “creative” in the face of adversity

The average US winery lost US$51,201 from March 15 to April 15 and expects to lose a further $134,626 in May, due to the latest survey by industry association WineAmerica.

There is some cause for optimism.

Having released bleak figures back in March, the industry association has said the results of its second survey has brought in some more “uplifting” findings.

Last month, WineAmerica revealed that US wineries lost a total of US$40,439,764 in March due to Covid-19, but warned that the figure could be far greater as only 10% of the nation’s wineries responded to the information request.

In its second survey, the industry association found that the average winery lost $51,201 between March 15 and April 15 and expects to lose $134,626 in May if the current situation continues through to the end of the month. Wineries estimate that it will take an average of four months to return to normal business levels.

This survey was returned by 727 wineries in 45 states, a smaller survey sample than the first.

It revealed that wineries have resorted to ingenuity in order to bring in money. The most popular new strategy was offering curbside pickups, with 84% of those surveyed saying they had done this. 63% said they had reduced shipping costs, 60% had offered special promotions, 54% had carried out local home deliveries, and 53% said they’d put out ‘wine club specials’.

28% revealed they had engaged in the growing trend of virtual wine tastings. Just 5% of those surveyed said they hadn’t tried any of these initiatives.

WineAmerica stated that it was “highly likely” that the marketing experience and willingness to adapt will “serve the industry for years to come”.

15% of those surveyed said they had been forced to stop production, however, 62% said that production speed had been reduced due to Covid-19.

Due to the global pandemic, the average American winery had to lay off five members of staff, although a quarter of those surveyed said they didn’t make any job cuts.

As expected, wine tourism has taken a huge hit. The average winery in America has 17,644 annual visitors, with 1,482 expected during the 15 March to 15 April period. Due to coronavirus, visitor numbers were down by an average of 90.5% and tasting room sales fell by 74.5%. However, direct-to-consumer (DtC) sales increased by 8%, with many wineries reporting sales rising by double or triple digits.

WineAmerica president Jim Trezise said that wineries and tourism “have a symbiotic relationship” and described visitors as being “the lifeblood of the industry”.

He said that marketing innovations “have mitigated losses due to closed tasting rooms, but not entirely”.

As some states start to lift lockdown measures, Trezise says WineAmerica is working to develop “best practices for tasting rooms” that will both protect the safety of visitors and employees.

https://wineamerica.org/