A short book was published in Bordeaux last week by a group of winemakers who are pretty unhappy about the future of their profession.
The winemakers are all AOC Bordeaux producers, and have formed an association called Collectifs des Viticulteurs de Gironde. It is run by a winemaker called Didier Cousiney, who I met when the association was set up about five years ago (this is a Decanter story I wrote in 2004 http://www.decanter.com/news/news.php?id=56387 ). It has no official link with a syndicate, or still less the CIVB, so is highly unusual in Bordeaux, created because they felt that the smaller winemakers didn't have a voice.
The book has been officially written by Jean Renaud, but in collaberation with other winemakers, and questions whether there will even be winemakers in AOC Bordeaux in the future, since noone can survive on the money that they make in this appellation (which represents, along with AOC Bordeaux Superior, about half of the production of the region).
The heart of the problem, they say, is the sale of bulk wine. 'A tonneau (900 litres) of wine is today being sold at 700-750 euros, and even at that price no negociant wants to buy it! Castel, who are typically the biggest buyers, are getting rid of their stock and not buying any more.' The price is below the cost of production and winemakers are losing money simply by turning the fruit on their vines into wine. 'There is a whole group of winemakers who have traditionally lived by selling their wine in bulk under the regional appellation of Bordeaux - and this is now dead,' says the book.
Cousiney has told the local Sud Ouest newspaper that hundreds of winemakers are in great difficulty across the Gironde and that, 'for years we have been either selling off buildings or pulling up parts of our vines. But there is only so much we can do, and noone can work indefinitely without making the slightest profit to live, let alone reinvest in the property.'
There's no doubt that the financial crisis has decimated the already pretty low price for bulk wine, and many winemakers have large quantities of it in their cellars - and a new vintage will be coming into the cellars in just three months times. And the rain this spring has meant more money has needed to be spent on sprays and other treatments.
The book suggests that official bodies invest more in marketing, that they allow the yield per hectare to be raised in order to lower producion costs (which of course runs totally contrary to the idea of maintaining regular quality levels in this basic Bordeaux appellation), and to allow people to have a Volume Complementaire Individual (VCI) - basically a reserve of wine that they can put aside in good years to bbe able to blend in the following year if there are problems such as hail, as there have been of course in 2009.
The book is called 'Restera t'il des vignerons a Bordeaux (will there be winemakers in Bordeaux in the future?').