Low white yield in Bordeaux prompts calls for radical measures

  • Monday 29 September 2008

Bordeaux winemakers are calling for a system of reserves to be brought in to cope with low yields of white grapes.

Yields of white wine in Bordeaux’s 2008 vintage are down around 40% on last year in some appellations.

The grapes have been severely affected by the frost early in the growing season, and poor fruit set after an uneven flowering in May.

This has pushed up the price per tonneau (900l, or about four barrels) to €1,200, and is likely translate to higher bottle prices next year.

Some winemakers are fearing a re-run of 1991, when high prices due to a low yield meant Bordeaux whites were uncompetitively priced, and lost out to better priced New World whites.

In response, a system of reserves, as is used in Champagne, has been suggested.

This would mean that a certain amount of white wine is kept back each year, to balance supply and demand in years of low production.

Currently, winemakers are able to blend 15% of a previous vintage, as long as they keep a record of the blend at the winery (date, vintage, amount, blend), but there is no official system of wine reserves.

Thibualt Despange of Despagne Family Vineyards, writing on his blog last week, said, ‘It looks increasingly likely that the market will be severely disrupted.

'In 1991... prices rose and Bordeaux whites lost huge parts of their market that they were never able to recover. Maybe we should think about introducing the idea of reserves as they do in Champagne.’

Oz Clarke, in Bordeaux earlier this week for the French launch of his Bordeaux Guide, suggested that the generic Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur appellations should be planted to around 50% white grapes.

This would allow for a wider range of styles on soils that did not always support heavily oaked red wines.

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