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Small harvests hit Burgundy exports

The small Burgundy harvests in 2012 and 2013 have contributed to a slump in the region’s Asian markets but the appetite remains undimmed according to the BIVB’s export director.

According to figures from the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB), exports to Japan and Hong Kong have declined in both volume and value over the first seven months of this year, while China remained relatively stable.

With close to three quarters of the year gone, overall exports of Burgundy wines to Asia have fallen 7.8% by volume and 0.4% by value.

Speaking to the drinks business, Nelly Blau, export director for the BIVB said the dip was, “unsurprising given the small vintages.”

However, far from indicating a loss of interest in the French region on the part of Asian buyers, it is a combination of small harvests, economic wobbles in Japan and the austerity drive in China that have hit imports hardest.

Blau added she was confident that the “appetite [for Burgundy] is still there. Sommeliers tell me there’s still an appetite.”

Indeed, this month’s Hospices de Beaune auction hit a record €8 million driven in no small measure by Asian buyers.

Similarly, Burgundy’s 2014 harvest is somewhat larger than the last couple of years with the BIVB projecting a harvest of 1.5m hectolitres and producers happily declaring a “return to normal” – though Meursault, Volnay and Pommard were badly affected by hail for the third year in a row.

The Japanese market fell less by volume and value than Hong Kong (see below), although the BIVB report it was no noted that internal demand had “collapsed” and indeed the country recently sank back into depression, which does not bode well for one Asia’s biggest and most important wine markets.

China’s volumes fell by 7% in the first seven months though in value it rose nearly 15%, while Hong Kong saw volumes fall by 21% and value by 15% in the same period.

Singapore’s imports sank around 5% by volume but rose by around 10% by value.

The 2012 and 2013 vintages were substantially smaller in many villages due to severe hail during the flowering – though quality was largely unaffected – hence a dip in volumes available for export to what is still a relatively small market for Asia when compared to the US and the rest of Europe.

China for example is the 11th biggest export market, representing some 1.9% of all Burgundian exports and other winemaking regions and countries with a bigger footprint in China have seen bigger drops.

Elsewhere, in a strange reverse, although Hong Kong saw a slowdown of grand cru exports it also saw a rise in Chablis and other white appellations, with Bourgogne blanc up 6% by volume and Mâcon 9.5% (from small bases).

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