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French bulk market 'tense' in face of Languedoc shortages

Published:  23 September, 2014

The French bulk wine market is starting to look "very tense", according to one top broker, following major shortages in the Languedoc region.

"We're starting to see the real results of what it was to pull out such a huge amount of vineyards," said Daniel Murphy, managing director of bulk wine broker Murphy Wine Company.

LanguedocFrench bulk wine market looks tense as Languedoc harvest falls shortThe Languedoc wine industry needs 'professionalisation' in order to combat short harvests and rising prices, says bulk broker Daniel Murphy.

"The crop in Languedoc is short - we finish a vintage with zero stock and we're desperate for the new vintage which in any case will not be enough," Murphy told

The Ciatti group recently said the Languedoc harvest would be down by around 10% on last year to 12.4 million hectolitres, with some varieties, including Chardonnay and Merlot, down by as much as 40%.

Murphy said the French bulk wine market is "effectively shut" until final figures on quantities are available across the board once harvest is complete  - which will dictate pricing.

Under normal circumstances, bulk wine sales from the region run until March or April, but Murphy is anticipating a "ferocious market between now and Christmas".

"When we get down to about 11 to 12 million hectolitres, we're not producing enough. That's roughly where we're going to be," he said. "In my opinion it will never be there again. We've got to figure out a supply/demand paradigm that works," Murphy added.

He said the region needs stability, which would come through long-term agreements with growers, allowing them to stay in business and invest in planting rights and mechanisation. The past three years have produced small crops, meaning prices have climbed substantially. "Not long ago Merlot was 40c per litre and now it's 85 to 90c. In three years it's gone up 100%."

At the same time as French prices have been increasing, they've been going down elsewhere, and Murphy queries how long before buyers source outside France. It currently has a strong domestic market, but Murphy is not sure whether consumers will continue to support French wines if prices skyrocket.

"Many growers can't believe that prices have gone so high," he added.  

Murphy added that when France could not supply generic white wine at a reasonable price "everyone goes to Spain" - the same holds true for Italy, whose crop has also fallen short.

Spain "has had a rough time" in the past few years, its bumper crop of last year did not sell. However the Spanish government ordered that some of the stock be made into grape must. Murphy said this has now shorted the market of wine once more, meaning prices will increase. "It's a very clever thing for Spain to have done," he added.