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Delpeuch looks back in anger

Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd
Christian Delpeuch has controversially stepped down from his position as president of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) in protest against the inertia shown by various groups in dealing with Bordeaux's problems.

Although Delpeuch was coming to the end of his two-year term, he was widely expected to carry on for a third year, following recent changes to the structure of the CIVB - which had been voted through by its members last year but not passed by the Ministry of Agriculture. His departure is tantamount to a resignation.

In a speech given last week, he attacked both local and central government as well as the growers' association La Fdration Syndicats des Grands Vins de Bordeaux AOC (FGVB) and others in the trade for being guilty of procrastination'.

He fiercely berated central government for dragging its feet over guaranteeing a 60 million loan (voted through the French Parliament in December 2005) to be used to compensate growers for uprooting their vines, an attempt to cut overproduction. Enough is enough,' said Delpeuch, who added that Bordeaux had missed a number of important opportunities for reform. The lack of willpower' to tackle viticultural issues such as yields was criticised, as was the lack of progress on both the approval methods (supposed to guarantee the quality of all Bordeaux wines) and the long-awaited creation of a Vin de Pays.

Delpeuch also criticised the FGVB for not protesting loudly enough after a group of militant protesters broke into the CIVB offices to steal the listings of those producers who had sold wine at below the 1,000 a tonneau minimum set by the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior Syndicat last year - a move that was widely criticised and has now lapsed after it proved unenforcable. Delpeuch also criticised the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur Syndicat for putting in place a loan of 15 million to support a distillation process which has no support from Brussels, and has no legal procedures in place to enforce repayment from its members in the proposed five-year period.

The CIVB president's position traditionally passes between a representative of the growers and the ngociants. Following Delpeuch - who is managing director at ngociant Dourthe - the next president will be a grower. Delpeuch said that his successor must understand that it is the market which dictates price. Whatever is happening in viticulture, it will be quality and the laws of supply and demand that will be the salvation of the industry.'

According to Allan Sichel, managing director of Sichel and president of the ngociants grouping, there is no obvious candidate from the growers as Delpeuch's decision to step down came as quite a surprise. We all thought he would stay for another year as he seemed determined to lead the region through the difficult reforms we are having to undertake.

I can understand his reasons for wanting to go and the frustrations of the role. He is used to making a decision at Dourthe and seeing it carried through which didn't happen at the CIVB. Although I do disagree that we haven't seen any movement at all. The vine pull programme has had applications for around 4,000 hectares (ha) to be removed, not as much as the 12,000ha target, but this is the first year in a three-year programme. We just need the government to come through with their promises. I also think we are seeing movement on the creation of a Vin de Pays. I totally agree with him, however, regarding the need for market-based solutions. The move by some groups to set artificial prices was totally unrealistic.'