Sales of Beaujolais Nouveau have bucked the general downward trend of French exports in the United States and the Far East while in the UK they continue to fall.
Sales of Georges Duboeuf – the name most closely associated with Beaujolais Nouveau – are up 7% on 2003 in the US.
This is in contrast to overall French wine imports to the US, which were down 13% over the last 12 months.
In the UK, importers Berkmann Wine Cellars said, sales of Beaujolais Nouveau are declining each year in the off-trade, but the restaurant trade is ‘encouraging.’
‘Our on-trade sales have remained stable (and indeed this year have risen by 10% ) . This could be attributed to our hard core of restaurateurs who continue the tradition and look forward to the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau each year,’ a spokesperson said.
In the supermarkets the Nouveau continues to slide. Sainsbury’s buyer Laura Jewell told decanter.com they were taking about 30% less this year than last, although she said the 2004 is ‘excellent’.
She added the interest from Sainsbury’s customers was still ‘significant’ but she could foresee a time when they may not import any Nouveau at all. The main reason for the lack of interest in the UK is simply that the novelty has worn off: restaurateurs and distributors no longer make sponsored midnight runs to get the wine to table in time for the traditional Beaujolais breakfast.
‘Now it is released earlier, which is essential for distribution, but it takes the sponsored race element out of it,’ Jewell said.
Around 60m bottles, a third of the entire output of Beajolais, are released on the third Thursday in November as Beaujolais Nouveau, the first fruit of the current year’s harvest. The tradition was started 50 years ago by Georges Duboeuf, and is as powerful as ever in the United States, the Far East, Scandinavia and Russia but has been declining in the UK for a decade.
The first shipments of Beaujolais Nouveau have just arrived in Japan, where consumption is expected to increase by 20% to a record 850,000 cases.
Bernard George, export manager for Georges Duboeuf, suggested discounting in UK supermarkets was partly responsible for the drop off. ‘It is the same as the German market. They put the price down each year, and people begin to feel “It is only a Beaujolais”. It is no longer fashionable.’
He added that the UK market was still vitally important even if sales were booming around the world.
The 3,500 Beaujolais producers ‘have been doing everything they can’ to safeguard the quality of the vintage this year, Ghislain de Longevialle, president of the region’s trade body said.
‘There has been real worry about the market this year. We have been doing everything to preserve the market for Beaujolais Nouveau.’
Various measures have been put in place to control quality, including green harvest, which some 30% of estates have carried out this year.
Written by Adam Lechmere