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INAO halts Beaujolais yield revolt

Published:  23 July, 2008

The INAO has seen off an attempt by members of l'Union Viticole du Beaujolais to derail proposals designed to shore up Beaujolais's depressed prices through a yield reduction.

Members had rejected a proposal put forward by the syndicats for the 12 Beaujolais appellations to reduce yields from 57hl/ha to 52hl/ha for Beaujolais Villages, although proposals to reduce yields for Beaujolais (from 58hl/ha to 53hl/ha) and the 10 crus (from 56hl/ha to 55hl/ha) were accepted. The members' angry rejection of the reduction for Beaujolais Villages led to the resignation of the union's president, Ghislain de Longevialle, on 23 August.

At a regional meeting of INAO on 1 September, the syndicats' proposals were accepted in their entirety. The regional arm's decision on yields is expected to be ratified at national level on 7-8 September. After the INAO's decision, de Longevialle said that for the first time, INAO has looked at yields from an economic perspective and forced through a decision that

I had hoped members would agree voluntarily. The yields have been fixed at levels that reflect where the largest surpluses lie.'

De Longevialle explained: Beaujolais is sitting on stocks of around 800,000 bottles and the figure is growing; this is worrying because the region's small margins give little room for manoeuvre.' It had been hoped that 2003's low yields would help, but de Longevialle said that 300,000 of the 800,000 bottles relate to the 2004 vintage. Although he was in favour of reduced yields in 2004, he says this did not get beyond preliminary discussions - a real pity because now the growers are being forced to agree a yield reduction in 2005, a better year'.

Citing commercial immaturity' as the root cause of the surplus, de Longevialle said: The measure was proposed for the common good. The problem is that growers need to understand it is a buyers' market and accept that demand, not supply, is the starting point if they are to get in step with the market and survive.' He added: Yield reductions are the short-term priority; in the longer term, the direction for national reform must focus on getting as close as possible to the market and the consumer. Direct sales account for only 15-17%, so everyone has to make a huge effort.'

De Longevialle is optimistic about the future: The higher-quality, fruitier, easier style of wines that modern consumers prefer are the type of wines that we know how to make.' And according to Inter-Beaujolais, grapes already tested from the 2005 vintage show excellent maturity and development, registering good sugar levels'. Acidity potential is also good, encouraging predictions that wines will be well balanced.