2013 catches out uninsured growers

Maison Louis Jadot President Pierre-Henri Gagey has outlined the extent of July’s hail damage in the Côte de Beaune, which has affected a third of his Burgundy vineyards.

bourgogne-wine-regionOf the company’s total vineyard holdings of around 250 hectares, 150ha are in Burgundy, including 70ha in the region’s Côte d’Or heartland. The rest is spread across Beaujolais, Pouilly Fuissé, and, most recently, Oregon.

Taking a rare leave of absence from the unusually late harvest to show a selection of his wines in London at a dinner hosted by UK merchant Bordeaux Index, Gagey told the drinks business: “This year we have been very badly damaged.”

In total he estimated “probably 50 hectares have been damaged this year where we lost 50-70% of fruit, mainly premiers crus – Beaune, Aloxe Corton, Corton Charlemagne, Savigny Les Beaune, Pernand Vergelesses, Beaune and Pommard – there’s nothing we can do about it.”

The scale of the damage is likely to pose particular problems for the many growers – Jadot included – who do not feel it is worthwhile to pay for insurance. “I think 50% of growers have insurance and the insurers pay the value of the grapes,” Gagey told db.

Explaining his own decision not to buy insurance cover, he explained that the normal west to east trajectory of the storms means that “usually the hail hits only a very small portion and we have vineyards all along the Côte so it’s not worth it.” However, he continued: “this year it was a huge storm so that’s why it was such a big problem.”

Looking beyond the immediate challenges of an unusual growing season which is forcing Jadot to harvest its vineyards simultaneously – from Beaujolais and Pouilly Fuissé in the south through to the Côte D’Or and Chablis at the northern end of Burgundy – Gagey confirmed the inevitable pressure on allocation and prices for the 2013 wines.

2012 was already a small crop so two years in a row is heavy but we will try not to have our prices too high,” he assured.

Nevertheless, demand for the limited quantities of 2012 mean that Jadot’s UK agent Hatch Mansfield will hold its en primeur tasting in November this year, rather than the traditional month of January, in a bid to protect allocations from going to other thirsty markets.

Gagey also predicted an enforced broadening of demand beyond the most prestigious villages of the Côte de Nuits. “The Côte de Nuits is better, yes, but not that much better,” he argued. “Some people are willing to pay five times the price for the best, but others will come back.”

This demand for Burgundy is not limited to the wines. Gagey noted a recent rise in interest among wealthy individuals, not just in France but Canada, the US and China, for buying vineyards in the region. “We are frightened,” he admitted. “Land is now very expensive.”

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