Bordeaux responds to Languedoc attack

  • Thursday 26 January 2006

Three heads of the Bordeaux wine industry have written an open letter to the French wine community in a bid to end the ‘stigmatisation’ of the region.

Implicitly in response to recent accusations of complacency by Languedoc winemakers, the letter defends the Bordeaux region and calls for nationwide reforms, saying the industry needs ‘respect, not charity’.

‘It has become a habit to stigmatise the Bordeaux wine sector,’ says the letter, written by Allan Sichel, who is head of the Bordeaux négociants’ federation, CIVB boss Christian Delpeuch and Jacques Bertrand, head of the ‘Grand Vins’ union.

‘The facts do not justify the accusations’, they say, launching into a three-part defence of the Bordeaux wine industry.

In an attempt to ‘put paid to a few generally accepted ideas’, the authors defend over-production by asking, ‘Can we blame a generation of winemakers and negociants for doubling their production when they could double their sales?’.

They also make the point that Bordeaux is not immune to the current crisis in the French wine industry, highlighting the plight of ‘hundreds of growers in serious trouble’.

‘The fall in the market is general,’ they said.

In a proposal dubbed ‘Plan Bordeaux’, the letter puts forward several nationwide measures including state-aided grubbing up of vines and stricter production controls.

Admitting that wine production in France is in need of reform, the three writers aim their criticism at the way French viticulture is run, calling the current system ‘centralised, inflexible and obsolete’.

Finishing with a paragraph headed ‘French winemaking deserves something other than charity’, the letter said the usual solutions would not help.

‘In the short term, and without these urgent reforms, the usual tricks of distillation and a sprinkling of subsidies will be of no use. French winemaking deserves something better than charity. It … deserves the respect of the state.’

Earlier this week, Languedoc winemakers accused the Bordelais of ‘twirling their moustaches’ while southern wine producers suffered the brunt of the French wine crisis.

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