Alain Vironneau, who has been elected unopposed as president of CIVB, comes to the post promising conciliation but has warned government must decentralise control if the wine industry is to survive.

Despite misgivings over his reputation as a confrontational leader of the Union of Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur, Vironneau received 46 votes from the 50 present at Monday’s AGM, with four abstentions. He replaces Christian Delpeuch with immediate effect.

There were no other candidates for a role that many see as a poisoned chalice – Delpeuch resigned in May with a furious broadside at government inertia and the lack of support from other winemaking bodies.

But Vironneau played down any suggestion of division at his election, particularly from wine merchants who were unhappy at his association with the March sales block, in which Vironneau’s union voted to continue to withhold the 2005 vintage unless winemakers received €1,000 per tonneau.

He told decanter.com , ‘it’s only journalists who talk about division – look at the evidence of Monday’s near-unanimous vote. What we intend to do now is to work together constructively.’

In his pre-election speech he set out clearly his vision of how wine producers and the state should work together: ‘I agree with Christian Delpeuch’s conviction that it is imperative the state respects the individual needs of each wine region. I don’t believe it is possible to have an economically effective French wine industry under overly-close state supervision. Any number of European examples point to the contrary.’

Delpeuch, in his earlier resignation speech, had said the state should adopt a more hands-off approach: ‘Government reforms will only be helpful if they don’t micro-manage and instead lay out a clear plan for decentralisation.’

Vironneau also referred to his reputation as a a controversial political player, and later said, ‘People know me by what I have done in the past. But being president of a union of winegrowers is of course very different to that of president of an inter-professional body that represents the whole of Bordeaux. I just ask that I am judged on what I do now.’

Vironneau will face the ever-pressing issues of distillation and grubbing up of vines, and will oversee an advertising campaign that is due to roll out later in the year.

He will be in charge of a €30million budget, and promised that ‘any campaigns that are already underway will continue’.

‘The most pressing need for Bordeaux continues to be the balance of supply and demand, and I will work towards that, and towards making Bordeaux as competitive as possible. The distillation campaign for this year ends in a few weeks, and we hope to have a greater take-up than last year – but we mustn’t forget that the quality of our wines has never been higher, and the government, the winegrowers, and the négotiants must join together to focus on their success.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux