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Depleted yields create ‘tension’ following a stellar year for Burgundy exports

Published:  28 March, 2022

Burgundy is struggling to keep up with rising demand, as a record revenue-producing year in 2021 now puts pressure on winemakers to make the most of depleted stocks.

On the export market, Burgundy wines set a new record in terms of revenue in 2021, with more than €1bn generated for the third consecutive year (+28% YOY, the equivalent of 105 million bottles, +18% in volume terms).

As a visit to last week’s Grands Jours de Bourgogne revealed however, the region is now grappling with a marked ‘tension’ on stock availability, due to a tug-of-war between increased demand and low yields.

At Wednesday’s press conference at the Palais des Congrès in Beaune, Laurent Delaunay, president of the BIVB, said Burgundy’s sales performance in 2021 was “phenomenal”, though the low harvest in 2021 was just two-thirds of what would be considered normal in an average year.

In fewer than five vintages, Burgundy has produced two extremes in terms of volume: the 2018 harvest resulted in full-capacity production, whereas 2021 was recorded at 997,178 hl. This marks a fall of 32.5% compared to the five-year average, making it one of the lowest volumes in the history of the wine region.

This tension was visible at a visit to Friday’s Meursault tasting, where just half of the usual space of the venue was dedicated to its portion of the bi-annual event.

Some tasting venues were packed – for example, the Corton and Corton-Charlemagne tasting at Louis Latour’s winery in Aloxe-Corton that same morning. However, small samples were poured across the board as producers aimed to mitigate the depleted stocks for both 2020 and 2019.

In terms of exports, the UK was the second biggest market in 2021 “despite Brexit”, Delaunay added. “We are used to dealing with customs difficulties with the rest of the world.”

“We’re so grateful to the UK,” he added. “Now, whites are growing, where it used to be the reds that dominate.”

The UK accounted for 15.3% of total value and for 16% of volume in 2021 (+23% and +3% respectively), having slipped behind the US.

Overall, Burgundy had a good year for exports in 2021, despite the continuing pandemic. More than 100 million bottles were exported, worth €1.3 billion, with Burgundy wines reaching 171 territories and 10 new destinations.

Whites are stealing a march in this respect, with Burgundy white wines accounting for 49% of 2021’s increase by volume, especially Régionale Burgundy appellations (+3.35 million bottles) and Chablis wines (+1.82 million bottles). Village wines of the Mâconnais were in third position (+1.3 million bottles).

Crémant de Burgundy also contributed to growth in the category. In 2021, it recorded its strongest growth in 10 years, marking a rise of 1.7 million bottles and €9.5 million on 2020.

Burgundy’s harvest 2021 – Comparison to the average for the past five vintages

White wines: 602,161 hl, excluding VCI (-32%)

Red wines: 281,001 hl (-31%)

Rosé wines: 2,981 hl (-54.3%)

Crémant de Burgundy: 111,035hl, including reserve wines (-35.3%)

Top photo shows the crowd gathered at popular stand at Louis Latour’s historic Corton Grancey Cuverie on Friday.