Beaujolais Nouveau marred by bad harvest

Today’s annual Beaujolais Nouveau release celebrations will be restrained, after a poor harvest has left hundreds of growers facing bankruptcy.

Bottles of Georges Duboeuf’s latest Beaujolais Nouveau release arrive in China for today’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day celebrations. Credit: Getty Images.

The 2012 growing season was marred by bad weather, with heavy rains, severe frosts and destructive hailstorms leading to a severely reduced harvest.

This year, 800 growers have already applied for financial aid from the government, and estimates suggest that as many as 300 of the region’s 2,300 producers could go bankrupt, with some putting the figure as high as 500.

“Vineyards are at the early stages of bankruptcy in that they have cash flow problems,” Jean Bourjade, head of Inter-Beaujolais told AFP.

Bourjade however, described the high figure estimates as alarmist, claiming up to 100 growers might be hit.

“The low harvest has hit just as we were starting to see the end of the tunnel,” he said.

The 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau campaign

Beaujolais has been fighting against falling sales for several years. Around 3,000 hectares of vines have been uprooted in the region in the past six years in a bid to reduce overproduction.

This will not be a problem in 2012, with the poor growing season cutting yields in half.

“We’ve seen it all this year: frost, hail, vine diseases like mildew,” Daniell Bulliat, chairman of the Beaujolais Nouveau festival in Beaujeu, told AFP.

“The problems are not being ignored, but the festival is an anti-depressant,” he added.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day officially starts at midnight on the third Thursday of November in Beaujeu, near Lyon, home of the vintage.

This year, the campaign has been launched with a fashion theme, as promoters feel the wine shares fashion’s qualities of “refinement and glamour.”

The term robe is also common to both, meaning both “dress” and “colour” in French.

In 2011, half of the 35 million bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau produced were exported, with Japan snapping up 8 million, the US 2.4m, and Germany 1.3m.

French law prohibits new batches of the light-bodied, fruity wine made from Gamay from being sold until the third Thursday in November.

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