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Bordeaux trio fight back

Published:  23 July, 2008

Three prominent members of the Bordeaux wine trade have written an open letter to the viticultural regions of France' asking for them to back urgent reforms' and slamming those who blame Bordeaux for the difficulties of the whole French wine trade'.

The letter - which runs to more than 1,000 words - is by Christian Delpeuch, president of the CIVB; Allan Sichel, president of the ngociants' federation, and Jacques Bertrand, president of the Bordeaux wine syndicats, and is one of the most vociferous calls for change since the current crisis began, as well as a lengthy defence of the steps the Bordelais are taking to bring production back in line with demand.

Earlier this month, the head of the Hrault winemakers' federation, Jean Huillet, accused the Bordeaux wine industry of doing nothing to help the French wine industry and poorer regions like the Languedoc. We continue to uproot, we send millions of hectolitres to be distilled, while the Bordelais stuff themselves and twirl their moustaches,' he told the French press.

In contrast, the Bordeaux letter claims: Pointing the finger at the Bordeaux wine industry has become something of a habit and one really has to ask whether those critics who are

so bent upon maintaining the status quo have not in fact found another clever means of putting off the implementation of urgently needed reforms.'

The letter goes on to point out that the Bordeaux region has suffered as much as everyone else from the market downturn. Sales have fallen by more than a million hectolitres - export sales falling particularly steeply - plunging hundreds of businesses into grave difficulties.'

It goes on to say that: Bordeaux financed an additional distillation of 185,000 hectolitres, without any state aid. At a moment when criticisms are raining down on our poor performance, it's only fair that Bordeaux should be given credit for not resorting to public funds.'

The letter asks for three emergency measures to be implemented as soon as possible: The first step in getting the market back in balance is to check systematically that production regulations are being respected in all the French viticultural regions'; the second step is to check the quality of every batch of wine sold by growers or ngociants'; and finally, it is an absolute necessity that AOC wines should be bottled in their region of origin.'

The letter concludes: In the short term, and in the absence of these urgent reforms, it will be useless to rely upon the usual ploys of distillation and a scattering of subsidies. The French wine-growing industry deserves more than public charity. It deserves first of all the respect of the state Above all, our industry deserves reforms that will at last set it free and liberate its energy.'