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Good times back for Burgundy

Published:  23 July, 2008

By Rebecca Gibb
After five lean years, sales of Burgundy are back to levels not seen since the 2001 campaign.

At a press conference before the Hospices auction last weekend, leading members of Burgundy's wine trade introduced new research. Burgundy exports have increased 14% by volume and 9% by value in the 12 months to July 2006 (BIVB). The only other French region with such encouraging figures is Champagne. Bordeaux export volumes are up 4% but 24% by value (CIVB),mainly due to demand for 2003s.

Although the UK remains the major export market for Burgundian wines by volume, the USA is now the biggest customer by value. Louis-Fabrice Latour, president of the federation de ngoce eleveur in Burgundy, said: There's a real enthusiasm for fine red wines in the USA. They are fed up with Merlot and want the sophistication of Pinot Noir.' In the UK, "the Pinot phenomenon" has not taken off - with sales of red Burgundy down. White Burgundy - in particular Chablis - accounts for the 6% rise in sales by volume but total value is down 4%. The UK and the US accounts for 46% of Burgundy sales. Latour said: I believe they will represent 50% of our sales by volume soon.'

Domestic consumption is also up 7% to 105 million bottles a year. Michele Baldassini, president of the BIVB, says this is mainly thanks to more listings in the French multiples.

The BIVB now intends to build on sales and is currently trialling informative point of sales displays in 10 French supermarkets to attract the customer. The first generic Burgundy bag-in-box (five- and 10-litre) branded with the BIVB logo is being offered to ngoce houses, domaines and wineries' and will appear on the shelves in early 2007.

Despite the encouraging figures there is caution: We've had a pretty good year,' said Latour, but things aren't as good as the late '90s. We have to be vigilant and keep prices reasonable.'