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UK wine buyers warn Burgundy will struggle to regain market share as exports plummet

Published:  01 October, 2014

Top UK wine buyers warn Burgundy will struggle to regain shelf space as figures reveal exports to the UK have halved in 2014, following last year's short harvest. 

Top UK wine buyers warn Burgundy will struggle to regain lost shelf space as figures reveal exports to the UK have halved in 2014, following last year's short harvest. 

The Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne said that three consecutive small harvests had meant a "new reality" in that Burgundy's main markets have been suffering from a lack of availability. Stocks are down 12% by volume in the first seven months of 2014.

Exports to the UK market have been hardest hit, with a 52% drop by volume and a 53% drop in revenues. The slump in volumes relates mainly to the Chablis and Mâcon white appellations, the BIVB said.

Scarcity has led to price rises, which in turn has meant major buyers looking to other, better value, appellations.

Burgundy winesBurgundy's wines are in short supply, which is pushing prices up and sales down

Clive Donaldson, Burgundy wine sourcing manager at Morrisons, told "The Burgundy 2013 vintage was poor, not just in Beaune, but with low yields in Chablis and the Macon. There are certain appellations that we need to have available, such as Chablis, but the reduced yields drive up prices and therefore sales will fall year on year. In the Macon we moved away from stocking our Macon Villages line and switched to other French wines - Picpoul in this case.

"In general, as we sell wines from all over the world, we look for the best value wines for our customers. Poor vintages mean that Burgundy will see pressure on sku's and space in store. It will be difficult for Burgundy to regain any lost space as, due to continued low stocks, prices are not expected to come down significantly this year - even with a better vintage."

Specialist supplier Charles Taylor told "Burgundy will have to work hard next year to regain the market share it lost due to the small crop."

He added that he was confident the region could do it "Our sales of top quality wines have held up quite well. I suspect volumes in supermarkets are down considerably," he said.

But he admitted that everyone is selling less Chablis right now, given it is currently rationed.

"Inevitably as prices go up a lot of consumers stay at the same price point - if they wanted a Saint Laurent they'll move to a Macon Village."

Taylor added that so far the Burgundians are "very happy" with the 2014 vintage given the September sunshine. "There should be bigger volumes and better quality", he said.

Robin Langton, wine buyer and consultant winemaker at Laithwaite's Wines, said its Burgundy sales had fallen by 7% in the last year, thanks to the issues around stocks and pricing. He added: "We have mitigated business by working closely with existing suppliers and sourcing some new ones where necessary. There has been some switching to other regions, but we have tried to focus on specific projects.For example, we have introduced a restrained and classy d'Oc Chardonnay from Collovray & Terrier, a terrific Macon winegrower.It's a great wine under £10 and we have seen strong sales."

He said that "with a better 2014 I would hope to see the category recover somewhat, if not completely".

Emma Dawson, M&S wine buyer, said Burgundy sales had "remained level", with "no immediate declines". She said the retailer's "strong, long-standing relationships with suppliers" meant it had been able to source sufficient stocks.

"We also benefit from the fact that we purchase many of our wines on the year of harvest and then mature them with our suppliers - an approach which means that we have good back stocks of many of our village Burgundy wines, and can continue to offer an excellent value range within the current inflationary climate for this region."

Dawson said this means "there has been little impact on our customers, as we have maintained prices across most of the category. Burgundy is a heartland territory for Marks and Spencer and our customers remain loyal to it". 

But she did say the supermarket is "exploring other Burgundy sub-appellations" in order to offer more diversity to customers. It is launching an Irancy Rouge later this month, but Dawson said "this is not the result of price pressures, and we will also continue to offer our customers great promotions on Burgundian wines over the Christmas period".