Bordeaux debates permanent removal of 8 to 10,000 hectares of vines

Tuesday June 30 2020 by Vitisphere

 In view of the current marketing imbalance, the whole point of a vine-pull scheme is to rebalance supply and demand. In view of the current marketing imbalance, the whole point of a vine-pull scheme is to rebalance supply and demand. - Photo credit : CIVB

Although no formal decision has been made yet, the future permanent vine-pull plan for Bordeaux is being discussed concurrently with the distillation campaign and proposals to reduce yields. According to current discussions at the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur producers’ association, 8 to 10,000 hectares of vineyards must be grubbed up in Gironde in response to declining sales, which have created inventories equivalent to two years of sales. As France's leading wine department, with 110,800 hectares of vines on-stream, Gironde would lose 7 to 9% of its area under vine. While affected areas and the amount of aid remain unresolved, the primary issue faced by the permanent vine-pull scheme is funding.

Support from the wine marketing board CIVB is one avenue being explored - though the board is still paying back the 2005 vine-pull scheme - as is a regional aid plan (including a short-term rebound plan and more structural resilience measures). A request for European subsidies is another option that could come under scrutiny: although Bordeaux seems to be the only French region considering vine-pull measures, other member states could follow suit. At the end of 2019, plans for Gironde to remove vines to the tune of 5,000 hectares (with a grant of 5,000 euros/hectare) were discussed but could not be debated by the Bordeaux AGM on 31 March because of the health crisis. The coronavirus, however, is now reviving the need to reduce supply due to falling demand. Bordeaux ex-cellar sales are likely to be well under 4 million hl during the 2019-2020 marketing season.

While the issue is still under discussion, proposals and counter-proposals are pouring in. There is talk of grants for grubbing-up to create reservoirs of biodiversity or to replace un-treated buffer zones, while other industry members fear renewed pressure for vineyards from urban sprawl. Some want strong financial incentives, while others would prefer strict criteria to avoid people living off the proceeds of vine-pull grants. As producers’ organisations have not reached a clear decision on the issue, many of their representatives are avoiding it. “For the moment we are working on the distillation scheme and possible dispensations from paying national insurance contributions. We are currently dealing with short-term economic measures and will need structural remedies to create a sounder basis. That may well be vine-pull, but we have to proceed in stages”, says Jean-Marie Garde, chairman of the Bordeaux Fine Wine Federation, who feels “there is a need for cash flow, there is the problem of the next harvest which is drawing nearer and we have to get trade going again”.



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