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With just 25 hl/ha, Chablis wines have gone into shortage mode

Par Vitisphere Le 03 novembre 2021
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With just 25 hl/ha, Chablis wines have gone into shortage mode
Although the supply side started to increase its prices in April, the challenge at the end of the year is to position prices so that they allow the shortfall to be managed whilst also future-proofing markets. - crédit photo : BIVB
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o manage the dearth of wines in 2021, “we're talking about allocations in Chablis, just like for the Côte!” exclaims Adrien Michaut, chairman of the Chablis producers’ organisation. With yields this year at an all-time low, currently estimated at 25 hectolitres per hectare, available volumes of Chablis seemingly range from 150 to 170,000 hl for the 2021 vintage, compared with a normal production potential of between 320 and 340,000 hl. “Yields are some of the worst we have ever seen. In 2016, production was low, but there were inventories. This year, we only have a year’s worth”, stresses Michaut, highlighting the series of unprecedented adverse weather events this year, with widespread frost, localised hail, powdery mildew pressure and the pace of harvesting quickened due to rain.

Rationing is an attempt to overcome the insoluble equation between strong demand and limited supply. “It's challenging. Since the beginning of the year, overall sales of Burgundy in general and Chablis in particular have picked up, in France and non-EU export markets (Canada and the United States)”, comments Louis Moreau, vice-chairman of the Chablis committee at the Burgundy wine marketing board (BIVB). The board registered an increase of 20% in volume shipments of Burgundy white wines over the first 8 months of the year compared to January-August 2019 (before the Covid pandemic). “Conversely, we are experiencing an historically low harvest. Since June, we have been applying the brakes so that we can manage volumes until the end of 2022, or even the beginning of 2023”, says Moreau.

As an inevitable consequence of the pressure on volumes, initial prices soared in Chablis – the first transactions doubled in price overall, though admittedly bulk volumes are low. Must traded at €1,200 /feuillette (compared to €550-600last year) and the 132-hl ‘feuillette’ has reportedly risen to €1,400, compared with €700 to 750 in 2020. “These are impressive figures, but we are comparing two exceptional years: market uncertainties sparked by the pandemic in 2020; and the combined effects of a small harvest and strong demand in 2021”, explains broker Fabien Remondet. With initial sales difficult to assess effectively due to the lack of significant volumes, Remondet stresses that “the market is under pressure, but people are waiting to see what happens. Until official harvest figures are released – on 10 December – there are no real trends”.

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