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Published:  23 July, 2008

Allan Sichel, managing director of leading Bordeaux ngociant Sichel, and committee member of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux, has used his annual vintage and market report to deliver a candid judgement on the region's fortunes. Describing the mood in Bordeaux as somewhat sombre in this early part of 2004', Sichel predicted turbulent times. The quality of the vintage cannot hide the immense problems faced by the French wine trade in combating falling consumption on the home market and fierce competition internationally,' he said. The number of growers continues to decline and accelerated consolidation is expected over the next few years as more competitive market conditions, new legislation and more stringent quality controls will encourage part-time growers and owners of investment-starved properties to sell their vines to younger, better-trained, dedicated professionals. A sea-change is about to take place in the Bordeaux wine industry. It will come from within or be forced upon by market forces. Either way, the result will be larger production units through concentration, greater severity in quality-control measures and intensified promotion and communication. On the basis that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", the future will be desperately dramatic for some, but a land of opportunity to others.' Of the 2003 vintage, Sichel said it was exceptional, but it would be misleading to label it a great vintage. The extreme heat, the inconsistency and the very great variation from one type of soil to another mean we should show a degree of caution at this early stage.' The relatively low yields were a blessing', however, as this has inevitably contributed to higher-quality wines that would have been achieved with normal yields.' The small size of the harvest was also a blessing, as it has helped to restrict ballooning stock levels. Turning to the recent en primeur campaign, Sichel said that market conditions are not much better than they were a year ago and economic indicators are gradually turning to green, but the feel-good factor is not high enough for consumers to indulge blindly in expensive wines.'