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Value of Côtes du Rhône exports to UK jump 12%

Published:  26 April, 2016

Côtes du Rhône (CDR) wine exports to Britain increased by more than 2% last year, but their value jumped by more than 12% to €82m (£63.5m) suggesting a commercial shift toward the mid-to high-end market is paying off.

In 2012, just over a half of Rhône wines were sold for £5 a bottle or more, but last year, 77% of bottles were sold above £5.  Whilst some CDR wines sell on average for more than £10, others remain on average just above £5. Inter-Rhône says the figures show that quality, and not only the prices of its wines, have increased.

Michel Chapoutier, Chairman of Inter-Rhône said the results highlight the strength of the Rhône in the UK.

"This can be attributed to the various initiatives and fresh thinking demonstrated by the region, from the focus on quality viticulture to opportunities of sampling at key local events and international fairs," he said.

The new trade figures were part of a range of compelling set of data revealed by the Inter-Rhône wine board at the Rosewood Hotel in Holborn in London last week. 

Bibendum-PLB was one of the UK wine distributors to praise Inter-Rhône's engagement with producers, customers and the market. The dispatch of 1,400 samples of successful premium wines from around the world to Rhône producers was among the new initiatives launched last year

"Inter-Rhône is far more proactive with the end user than Bordeaux; its far more in tune with the market place; there is a connectivity between the wine board and the producer and the end user." said Andrew Shaw, buying director at Bibendum PLB. "The Rhône is more competitive in pricing and we're seeing greater sales of Rhone wine than Bordeaux wines; they are more contemporary in terms of wine styles," Shaw told

Britain remains the number one export market (in volume) for Rhône Valley AOC wines, representing 19% (177,759 hl) of the total volume of wines exported. In 2015, 68% of the region's wine was sold in France with exports accounting for 388 million bottles.  Exports to the UK, USA and Japan, increased in volume and value last year, but globally, exports fell 4.1% in volume and were down 0.7% in value.

Despite Inter-Rhône's focus on 'premiumisation' and on quality rather than volume, challenges are ahead. Inter-Rhône says the wine region has run out of stock and it now wants to revive the stability of production levels. Production in terms of volumes fell 3.6% last year compared to 2014; production levels have not fully recuperated from a major slump in 2013, which affected, Inter-Rhône says, 30% of regional CDR production.

Increasing productivity and quality is a one key focuses of the new 2016-18 phase of restructuring of vineyards says Françoise Dijon, from Inter-Rhône's new Observatory of Quality.  More than 5,000 ha (8%) of the Rhône's vines have been restructured since 2009 and this process could lead according to Inter-Rhône, to the replanting of as a much as 30% of wine region's vines. The restructuring process was launched and has been renewed to combat killer Grapevine Trunk Diseases (GTD) diseases. "The key reason for the restructure of vines is GTDs, which have led to the early death of vines and less productivity," Dijon said. 

Inter-Rhône says vine production has also suffered from poor fruit set as a result of coulure, the excessive shedding of ovaries and young berries that can lead to clusters of fruit with few berries.

White varieties now account for 14% of replantings and whilst Syrah and Grenache account of the majority of red variety replantings, relatively new on the scene is Marselan, a heat and disease resistant variety formed from a cross between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has replaced old Grenache plantings and now accounts for 9% of replantings in the Rhône.

Inter-Rhône says Marselan provides strong colours that Grenache with its irregular performance each year, has not always produced in recent times. More Syrah has been replanted because they were planted with clones that led to the premature deaths of vines.

"With the restructure of vineyards, we have taken advantage of the situation by planting new vines in accordance with the demands of the market," Dijon said.

Although prices for Rhône wines have risen  - up 5.3% in France in 2015, Inter-Rhône says prices will not continue to climb:  "We do not want to run the risk of losing market share," said Dijon.