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Wine Spectator: The Existential Crisis of Bordeaux’s Small Grapegrowers

December 30, 2022

Earlier this month, a thousand angry vignerons and their allies marched through the streets of downtown Bordeaux, calling for help to save their livelihood. When they reached the doors of the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB), the local trade organization, they hung a dummy from a tree outside, representing financially troubled grapegrowers at risk of suicide, and piled dead vines on the doorstep.

The growers are demanding financial compensation in exchange for grubbing up their vines, and no one on the Place de Bordeaux was surprised. (Several officers of the CIVB took part in the march.) The region faces a crisis and grubbing up vines seemed the most direct and equitable solution. Trading for bulk Bordeaux has skidded to a halt.

The vignerons are calling on the French government to subsidize pulling up vines in Bordeaux’s less prestigious areas. They are asking for €10,000 per hectare, but the government has said that European Union rules prevent such funds. And that is leading to a crisis and anger.

How did one of the world’s most prestigious wine regions hit this point? “The problem today is not the price. The problem is there are no transactions,” said Christophe Chateau, spokesperson for the CIVB. Sales of bulk Bordeaux are so scarce, he said, the CIVB hadn’t published price quotations since October.

If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, you’re not wrong. For decades now, Bordeaux has been grappling with shrinking sales of value wines. “There are regularly similar crises every 10 to 15 years because exports are not sufficient for compensating for declining consumption in France,” said Jean-Pierre Rousseau, CEO of négociant Diva. Wine Spectator has the full story.

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