How France’s wine industry came to the figure of 3 million hl and €80/hl for crisis distillation

Monday April 20 2020 by Vitisphere

 “We have to move quickly on distillation, for administrative and technical reasons, in order to remove volumes financially and physically in July and August”, said Stéphane Héraud. “We have to move quickly on distillation, for administrative and technical reasons, in order to remove volumes financially and physically in July and August”, said Stéphane Héraud. - Photo credit : BNF, Gallica

"It is difficult to quantify overstocks when we don't know when and how lockdown will end. If someone is in a position to tell me the right price and volume for distillation, I’d like to hear from them!” said Stéphane Héraud, chairman of the General Association of Wine Production (AGPV), with his customary cheeky wit. For weeks, politicians across France’s wine regions have been mulling over crisis distillation measures sparked by the coronavirus, and currently estimate the surplus at 3 million hectolitres of wine. AGPV has been focusing primarily on distillation as a means of emptying tanks before the harvest and is calling for a subsidy of 80 euros per hectolitre for wines with a protected designation of origin and geographical indication (PDO and PGI).

To put a figure on excess volumes, “we reviewed every wine region to estimate the volumes potentially in oversupply in each one. Adverse weather in Provence and Côtes-du-Rhône means there should be little wine to distil, but Alsace, Bordeaux, Languedoc and the Loire are interested. Even so, it’s difficult to say whether the total is 1.8 or 2.3 or 3.5 million hl...” explained Héraud, who openly admits that the many uncertainties and unknowns of the Covid-19 crisis make it essential to stay humble and play things by ear. In order to put a figure on the amount of the subsidy, AGPV members based their calculations on the current basic price of PGI wines, particularly Pays d'Oc. “It is also the entry-level price of some Bordeaux - €80 /hl amounts to €720 /tonne”, commented Héraud.

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