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Is the new CIVB boss likely to reverse Bordeaux’s vine-pull scheme?

The recently elected boss at Bordeaux’s wine trade body, the CIVB, has raised eyebrows by indicating he may reverse his predecessor’s support of vine-pulling – a measure designed to rebalance the Bordeaux market and correct over-production at the generic level.

The outgoing president, vigneron Bernard Farges of Chateau de l’Enclos was in favour of pulling up unproductive vines, and using EU money to do so on an regional level, and was reported to be in preliminary discussions to see if this might be achieved (although currently the EU forbids the use of public money for grubbing-up schemes).

However, Allan Sichel, a négociant and manager of Maison Sichel house, who was elected to the rotating presidency of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) last month, having previously held the role in 2016-2018, gave his inaugural speech which led many to suggest he might reverse the position.

According to local newspaper Sud Ouest, as reported by wine-searcher, Sichel “did not utter the word ‘uprooting’ once in his speech,” and although he made the same observation of the economic situation as Farges, “he does not advocate the same solutions”.

As Wine-Searcher also noted, La Tribune de Bordeaux similiarly argued that Sichel “broke a well-established rule” in this regard, noting that normally, each new president announces “an identical program, almost to the letter, to that of their predecessor”.

As reported by French language site Europe Cities, Sichel’s speech instead said it was was up to Bordeaux producers to “resuscitate the attractiveness of our wines”, arguing that the most important subject for the sector was its marketing volume and advocating marketing and promotional tools to boost sales.

“The production of Bordeaux wines in a normal year – around 5.5 million hectolitres – is now much higher than our marketing volumes,” he reportedly pointed out. “Even if we identify avenues for export development, it is unlikely that we will be able to compensate for the continued decline in wine consumption on the French market, which, I remind you, represents 55% of our sales. The trend is to “drink less but better”, so this translates as an opportunity.”

Events that brought consumers and producers together, such as the Bordeaux Fete du Vin, were successful, he noted.

“This is how we will show the reality of our sector, its faces, its diversity, its know-how, its human, family and agricultural dimension. The consumer only asks for that – and that’s good, that’s what we are,” he said.

However, he added that these efforts to boost sales would have to be multiplied. “It will be necessary to be consistent over time, because the results will take a long time to obtain,” he said.

“We will return to the path of growth and it would be a shame if our potential were definitively cut off,” he was reported to have said. “We must therefore take care to preserve all the good terroirs. And, thus, to ensure that our vineyard can meet a potential increase in future demand.”


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