A worldwine glut of wine could see millions of bottles of Beaujolais go down the sink.

The Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais (UIVB) is preparing to get rid of 100,000 hectolitres of the 2001 vintage in an effort to ward off a production crisis next year. Wine still in vats from the Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages appellations may be made into vinegar, distilled into ethyl alcohol for use as road fuel or simply poured away.

UIVB spokesperson Ann Masson told decanter.com, ‘if we do not get rid of the wine from this vintage, the vats will remain full and there will be no hope for producers next year. This way they can be assured at least some money from the next harvest.’

Overproduction globally to the tune of 60m hectolitres and increasing competition from New World wines on the export market have led the UIVB to take action this year. It has put a proposal to the French Ministry of Agriculture that the equivalent of 13m bottles of wine should be destroyed – wine which would normally be split 50:50 between export and domestic markets.

The Ministry has yet to respond, but the feeling is that they will agree to the measures in the next few weeks. If it says yes it will be expected to contribute to a compensation package for those producers who volunteer to have their wine destroyed, though any payouts are likely to be considerably less than the cost of production.

‘We are proposing parallel measures to prevent any more crises in the future,’ Masson said. ‘We are looking at the yields of Gamay and also at ways of assuring better quality, perhaps altering the decree for the appellations or adding supplementary criteria. It is very difficult for us because as at the same time as production is rising, consumption in France and elsewhere is falling.’

Turning the wine into vin de table was not an option as even here supply outstrips demand in France. As for Beaujolais Nouveau, Masson insists the two markets are not linked.

Written by Liz Hughes25 June 2002