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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

Prominent Bordeaux ngociant Alan Sichel has claimed the decision of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) to limit sales from the Bordeaux 2004 harvest to 50 hectolitres per hectare is the only way to stabilise prices - production has to be in line with demand'. Sichel, who is head of both Maison Sichel and the Bordeaux Ngociants Federation, said that following two small harvests in 2002 and 2003, early indications show that the 2004 harvest could produce up to 7 million hectolitres. Bordeaux is forecast to sell only 5.6 million hectolitres this year and a big difference between supply and demand will make the current problems worse,' Sichel said. The CIVB decided on the measure, the first of its kind in the region's history, at an emergency council meeting late last month. The continuing decline both in the price for standard AOC Bordeaux (down 50% in three years) and the level of exports (down 9% in the past 12 months) meant the interprofessional organisation had to act to protect its members. Outgoing CIVB president Jean-Louis Trocard said that the collapse in the price for some AOCs has reached an unacceptable level that threatens the viability of our vineyards, the unity of our industry, the stability of our institutions and our image in France and the world.' Sichel added that the measure would also go some way towards guaranteeing the quality of basic Bordeaux rouge, a problem that the whole region has recognised and is on the way to solving'. Most producers will be expected to produce around 57 hectolitres per hectare', according to Sichel, with the remainder held back until the supply/demand situation is back in balance'. Unfortunately for hard-pressed small producers (20% of which are said to be facing serious financial difficulties), the lack of a Vin de Pays category for the region means surplus wines cannot even be declassified and sold on. Even the Vin de Table escape route is denied to them, as chaptalised wines are not allowed to be sold as such. Just a week after the decision was made, 1,000 growers took to the streets of Bordeaux in a protest organised by agricultural trade union FDSER. One proposal put forward at the protest was to guarantee a minimum price ngociants pay for AOC Bordeaux. Sichel branded this suggestion both totally illegal and totally unrealistic - price has to be dictated by the market. Many of these growers are deeply committed to Bordeaux and very hard-working, but they have no idea of the realities of the current market.' As for establishing a Vin de Pays category in the region, Sichel said that many people have come round to the idea' since it was discussed last year. He called it a more realistic medium-term goal' than the proposed Cpages de France category.