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Beaujolais Nouveau producers ‘forced’ to make hand sanitiser

Published:  23 November, 2020

Producers of Beaujolais Nouveau have been left with no choice but to turn part of their crop into pure alcohol, it has been reported, after exports of wine from the region fell during the first nine months of the year.

Producers have been left vulnerable after Covid wiped out the highly sociable – and profitable – celebrations surrounding this year’s release. As a result, reports have emerged that producers are dedicating much of their 2020 yield to hand sanister instead.

Each year, 25 million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau are sold in 120 countries around the world. The release is usually a highly sociable affair in France and is popular abroad in places like the US where the young wine is consumed at Thanksgiving.

It also usually brings in millions for French producers who often sell wine via their cellar door and in restaurants in the region. This year however, smaller producers in particular, who rely on this footfall and do not sell to the supermarkets, have been forced to distill the must into pure alcohol for the purposes of making sanitation products.

Beaujolais winemaker Fabien Castelbou said via France 24: “We make wine for people to appreciate. We want to make them happy. Distilling wine is something I’ve never had to do.”

“Distillation is really the last resort,” he added.

The channel also said the pandemic could have a devastating impacts on France’s winemaking regions, with “catastrophic” knock-on effects for places like Beaujolais as well as others around France.

“When buyers disappear, vineyards are abandoned. So we lost a part of our heritage as well as jobs and know-how. We’re afraid that part of our way of life will simply disappear,” Aubert Lefas winemaker at Domaine LeJjeune, said.

Exports for Beaujolais wine fell 3.68% to €54.8m in the first nine months of 2020, according to Inter Beaujolais.

While some countries, like the UK (+7%, €12m) have risen this year, with the UK becoming overcoming the US to become the region’s top export market, others have fared less better.

Notable movements came from Canada (+13%), Sweden (+13%), Ireland (+37%), Germany (-29%).

The USA fell 22% in the same period, but this was also due to the so-called ‘Trump Tax’ which has hit exports to the US – a major importer of French wine.

Some reports say that total sales of Beaujolais wine could fall by as much as 25% in 2020 compared to 2019 if the impact of Covid and the rise of international tariffs continue.

The irony is not lost on producers who have noted 2020 as a stand out year for Beaujolais. A lot of sunshine around harvest have led to multiple claims of a “very good year”. As a result, many winemakers are now choosing to lay the wine down to make fully fledged, full bodied Gamay.

The fruit forward, easy-drinking nouveau style is made via carbonic maceration where the whole bunches are left to ferment in a CO2-rich environment.

Sales of Beaujolais Nouveau usually account for a quarter of sales from the region.