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Harvest and exports up for Rhône Valley in 2016

The Rhône Valley has reported a small increase in the size of the 2016 harvest compared to the 2015 while export volumes fell slightly.

Figures from Inter Rhône show that the 2016 harvest totalled 3,063,816 hectolitres, a 1% rise on the year before but broadly in line with the five-year average.

Not only were volumes good but the quality of the vintage is being widely lauded with producers roundly declaring it one of the best they have produced.

“And, unlike other regions, when we say it, we mean it!” quipped Michel Chapoutier, president of Inter Rhône.

The figures show that over 2 million hl, 81%, of the harvest was for red wines – a 4% increase on 2015. Volumes of white and rosé wines fell slightly however, 7% and 12% respectively.

For now though, the 2016 vintage, at least the reds, largely remains in tank or barrel, awaiting bottling anytime between later this year and next.

Export volumes of Rhône wines meanwhile declined very slightly by an estimated 2.7% to 913,000hl – though this was broadly in line with the global downward trend for French exports of still wines.

Export values however rose stayed stable on €460m which, said Inter Rhône, considering the fall in volume likely indicated a slight rise in the value per bottle and was probably the result of positive growth in high-value markets. The UK remains the biggest export market by volume for Rhône wines – 18% of the total – followed by Belgium (17%) and the US (14%).

In value terms it was little different, the US accounting for €86.2m, the UK €73.3m and Belgium €52.6m.

Other top markets by value (in descending order) included: Canada, Germany, Switzerland, China, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Japan.

Inter Rhône has highlighted a number of other European and non-European markets it says have real potential for growth.

Norway, Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria were all good European markets, as were Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore in Asia.

Australia too was described as having “pushed forward” in the last few years and was now “snapping at the heels of the top-performing markets.”

It accounted for 9,000hl worth €5.3m in 2016.

Speaking at a press conference in Avignon this week, Chapoutier stressed that the Rhône needed “more dynamism” in its export markets. Currently the top 10 export markets account for 85% of all exports and within that, the UK, Belgium and Germany make up 50% of EU exports while the US, Canada and China are 80% of non-EU exports.

France itself remains an important market for the Rhône, the hyper/supermarkets alone absorbing around 700m bottles in 2016 worth €440m.

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