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A return of Chablis could help reduce price hikes

Published:  04 July, 2018

Chablis producers in Burgundy are hoping a bumper crop this year will help reduce wine prices, raising expectations of a stronger return of Chablis volumes to the UK market in the near future.

The Burgundy wine board, BIVB, said Chablis was already moving slowly back into the markets this year, thanks to a reduction in the fall of production volumes for the 2017 vintage when compared to the devastating 2016 vintage, which led buyers in the UK to source Chardonnay from elsewhere.

Meanwhile, this year Chablis producers are reporting a dry year with no frost, hail or mildew. However, producers say prices are not expected to fall significantly in the short term.

“If there is a good crop as expected this year, there should be an adjustment in prices but not as much as the market would like - for a significant fall in price you need two successive bumper crops,” said Jean-Philippe Archambaud, managing director of Chablis producer, Simonnet-Febvre.

Average prices for Chablis villages wines have doubled over the past two years and there has been a strong variation of prices of Premier Crus with Grand Crus prices established on “a daily basis”, Archambaud said.

“Over the past two years the average price for Chablis villages has double from €650 to €1,200 per Feuillette (132 litre barrel),” he said.

The BIVB meanwhile dismissed claims that a newly approved measure in France allowing producers to keep a greater amount of reserves, would help maintain high prices.

“The new legislation is very strict. It allows producers to hold back more reserves only until the following year and only if production in a single year is greater than their average amount of volumes produced,” said a spokeswoman.

In June, France’s national institute of origin and quality, the INAO announced that wine producers in France would be able to increase their reserves for each vintage by 20% in order to help them mitigate weather variations and global warming.

“The measure provides a new form of insurance for producers in Chablis,” she said.

“Insurance policies taken out by producers hit by frost or hail are limited in their effectiveness as the amount a producer can claim for losses, can only be based on the amount of volumes produced the previous year, rather than the average amount of wine produced over the last ten years,” she added.

The Burgundy wine board said the 237,000 hectolitres (hl) of Chablis produced in 2017, represented a 20% fall in volumes, when compared to a good average harvest of 293,000 hl.

It said reports that production had dropped by 35% in 2017, was a figure that corresponded to the potential maximum of production in Chablis.

In 2017, the fall in production was less dramatic than the 2016 harvest when 159,000 hl of Chablis were produced representing a 46% drop in volumes, the BIVB said.