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Gastronomy and Wine Portal

Climate is changing, Bordeaux is changing, too

The weather in Bordeaux is getting hotter and drier, which calls into question the viability of today’s varieties, providing the quality, characteristics and volume necessary for sustainability in the coming decades. Wine regions must accept this challenge of nature and re-adjust.

The French organization INAO (Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité) has already approved six grape varieties that will be added to the grapes allowed for the production of Bordeaux entry-level wines, AOC Bordeaux and AOC Bordeaux Supérieur. Other categories are expected to follow. The vine-growers hope these innovations will prepare the region for the climate change.

Experiment with new varieties

Studies have been conducted for more than 11 years in an experimental vineyard in Pessac Leognan to determine the suitability of grapes for warmer, drier climates. They have resulted in establishing new, recently approved varieties: Touriga Nacional, Castets, Marselan and Arinarnoa for red wines, and Alvarinho and Lilorila for whites.

Castets is an almost forgotten grape variety from the southwest of France that is naturally resistant to grape diseases and gives vibrant wines suitable for aging.

Touriga Nacional is a complex, full-bodied and aromatic flagship variety from Portugal.

Marselan and Arinarnoa were created decades ago by crossing existing varieties: Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon for the former and Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon for the latter.

Alvarinho and Lilorila are aromatic white grape varieties.


Early ripening berry?

All problems associated with climate change come down to the ideal ripening period, which in Bordeaux falls between 10 September and 10 October. “You make great wines if you harvest in late September or early October, rather than August,” – winemaker Kees van Leeuwen, who is in charge of the project, explains to Wine Spectator. “If the grapes ripen in August or July, in the hottest part of summer, then the berries are unbalanced: too low acidity, too much sugar, weak flavor … Therefore, historically, producers have always planted varieties that ripen in local climatic conditions at the end of the season.”

But with climate change, higher temperatures mean that flowering, veraison and ripening take place earlier and earlier. And there is a risk that one day they will ripen in August.

Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc may be the first victims, experts say. Climatic forecasts predict that Merlot, as an early ripening variety, is to leave its ideal ripening window by 2035-2040. And 66% of Bordeaux’s red wine vineyards are planted with this variety.

The late maturing varieties such as Cabernet and Petit verdot will stay within their ideal window for much longer, until around 2050. “Most of our research should be completed by 2050,” says van Leeuwen.


Not so fast…

“This is an exciting area and illustrates one of the numerous steps Bordeaux is taking to prepare for the future,” Allan Sichel, CEO of négociant Maison Sichel, says. “We are planning to plant some of these varieties soon”.

Does this mean that Cab-Touriga blends will soon be bottled at Château Bordeaux? They will be bottled, but not shorty.

INAO’s permission to cultivate new varieties has significant limitations. They can plant only 5% of the vineyard area, and the grapes of these varieties cannot be more than 10% of the volume in the final mixture. At the same time, the grape varieties will not be indicated on the labels: consumers will not know whether they are drinking wine including new varieties.

The trial period is 10 years. This stage will enable the growers to test the grapes in their fields and cellars. Therefore, it is impossible to say that newly approved varieties are a final choice. Some of them are likely to be rejected, whereas others will be maintained.

New experiments are already underway. “Last year, we planted three Cypriot grape varieties that are very drought tolerant,” – van Leeuwen said. – I think that new varieties are less subject to change if they are chosen correctly. In addition, it will have less impact on the typicality of Bordeaux wines than if we do not change the varieties. “


Will Bordeaux taste like Bordeaux?

It is important to remember that grapes have been changed in the region before. Merlot has only become popular in recent decades. And two centuries ago, dozens of different varieties were grown throughout the region!

Although consumers will not know from the label whether they are participating in this experiment (at least until the end of the trial period), merchants are confident that Bordeaux lovers will appreciate their quality and identity. “The goal is to preserve the characteristics of Bordeaux wines, so there should be no problem selling these wines as a Bordeaux blend,” – Sichel says. However, if nothing is changed, van Leeuwen argues that a wine made from Merlot in Bordeaux in 2050 will taste very different because it will ripen in August, contain 16 per cent of alcohol and have a pH of 4.1.

 По материалам winespectator.com

Фото: terredevins.com, xtrawine.com, vigneron-independant.com, freepik.com

Wine regions must accept this challenge of nature and re-adjust.

The positive 2020

A survey conducted by Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris recorded positive assessments of the past year, made by representatives of the wine business.

A survey of 658 wine producers and 737 wine and gourmet items merchants helped reconstruct the overall picture of 2020 for winemaking and wine sales. Using new tools or distribution channels, winemakers, together with merchants, have flexibly approached the challenges caused by Covid-19. Their assessment of 2020 appeared to be mostly positive.

Most wine and gourmet items merchants (60%) said their revenue was good. 55% of them reported sales growth, and 15% reported that sales were even more stable compared to 2019. During the holiday season of the last quarter of 2020, 58% of wine and gourmet items merchants witnessed a clear increase in sales over the previous year.

As for winemakers, 34% of respondents consider their results to be positive, and 22% – stable compared to 2019.

Dynamic approach to business development

Wine and gourmet items merchants have been able to adapt to security measures which are being implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic, by offering new services, including online sales (18%) and home delivery (20%), even after working hours (5%), as well as Click & Collect system. This helped them hold out with virtually no sales at large private events (weddings, anniversaries) and trade events (exhibitions, tastings).

Winemakers also showed initiative and creativity: 35% of them created their own sites for online sales during this period, 22% joined the existing Internet platforms, and 17% expanded sales to cover wine and gourmet items merchants. Overall, 67% of winemakers have found new distribution channels.

Still wines and spirits come out on top

Red and white wines had the best sales figures even compared to 2019, which is probably due to the role they played as “moral support” during the isolation. They showed almost the same results: sales of red wines increased by 53%, whereas sales of whites – by 55%.

Spirits also saw an increase in sales, rising 50% in popularity and confirming significant growth over the past few years.

However, sparkling wines, which are usually used at festive and public events, on the contrary, have suffered during the period of quarantine and isolation.

There are strong players in the world of wine!

While 66% of wine and gourmet items merchants are optimistic about the future, winemakers continue to express some concern. However, they show resilience: 65% of them want to maintain and develop their new distribution channels, including digital technologies.

The Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris survey showed a sufficient margin of safety for the wine market players and showed that this inherently resilient sector, with the support of consumers who continued to buy wines and other spirits, has been able to successfully restructure to bounce back and develop further.

A survey conducted by Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris recorded positive assessments of the past year, made by representatives of the wine business.

Wine exports from Austria: rapid growth

AWMB published the last decade’s monitoring.

Austria’s wine exports entered a new dimension in 2019. For the first time ever, exports surpassed the 180 million euro mark with a record 183 million euros (+8%), while volume shot up 20% to 63 million litres. The number of export countries rose to 102, in contrast to the 64 countries in 2009. As the latest figures from Statistics Austria show, the strong 2018 vintage in terms of volume fuelled exports in 2019. An 8% increase in revenue represented a new record of 182.9 million euros, while sales increased by 20% to 63.3 million litres. The volume of the 2018 harvest was approximately 15% higher than the 15-year average. This resulted in more wine being available in the entry-level price segment (sold primarily in price-sensitive markets such as Germany), which led to a drop in average price to €2.89 (2018: €3.22).

Alongside the leading export countries of Germany (+1.6%), Switzerland (+0.5%) and the USA (+14.8%), strong to very strong sales growth was also seen in the Netherlands (+31.6%) and throughout Scandinavia, with the exception of Norway. While the average price in Germany came under pressure, it continued to rise in many EU member states and third countries. In the Far East, the promising market of China recorded very high sales growth (+86.8%) and good growth (+12.6%) was also seen in Japan, after years of stagnation.

This increase in sales was primarily driven by Austrian white wine. In terms of revenue, bottled red wine grew remarkably well, which is testimony to the increasing recognition that the unique styles of Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch (to name but two) are attracting in the international marketplace.

*AWMB, based on Statistics Austria Final Export Data 2019; as at June 2020. Data from 2017 onwards is based on updated EU customs tariff numbers. The data capture method used by Statistics Austria includes re-exports of non-Austrian wine.

Domestic sparkling wine, on the other hand, suffered losses – with the exception of Norway and the United Kingdom, for example, which saw strong growth in Sekt imports. Semi-sparkling wine, on the other hand, showed a double-digit growth rate.

The growth in the number of export countries is also very encouraging: while Austrian winegrowers exported to 64 countries in 2009, this number reached 102 in 2019. For many years, the AWMB’s export strategy has been focused on positioning Austrian wine on a large number of international markets.

Volume share of bulk and bottled wine exports 2000-2019*

This strategy provides a buffer for fluctuations in individual markets while ensuring sustainable growth in exports overall. The share of exports represented by bottled wine amounts to 78% by volume and 94% by value. This development is of essential importance to the Austrian wine industry.

Since entering the EU, all Statistics Austria data relating to the EU have been based purely on statistical declarations by exporters and on Intrastat reports.

Intrastat declarations must be submitted by companies with imports or exports of goods from or to EU member states exceeding the assimilation threshold of €750,000 in the previous year. Small deliveries and exports in private cars are not captured. The reliability of the statistics is therefore not absolute.

Import and export volumes by country*


Sourse: AUSTRIAN WINE STATISTICS REPORT 2019, www.austrianwine.com, ©AWMB

The lower threshold for the reporting requirement is different for each EU member state. The import figures fluctuate as a function of the high share of bulk in both volume and value terms, depending on the Austrian harvest. Conversely, for Austrian exports the share of bulk has dropped considerably, which has led to continuous increases in export values.

Based on AUSTRIAN WINE STATISTICS REPORT 2019, www.austrianwine.com, ©AWMB

Фото: ÖWM/Anna Stöcher

AWMB published the last decade’s monitoring: Austria’s wine exports entered a new dimension in 2019.