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EUR150m of Bordeaux returned to France in three years

Nearly €50m of Bordeaux red wine was re-imported back into France in 2012, official figures show.

Newly released French customs figures show €48m (US$65.8m) of red Bordeaux was returned from foreign countries in 2012. In 2011, the figure was €62.8m and in 2010 €39.7m.

While Bordeaux’s wine trade office, CIVB, describes the practice as routine, some observers are concerned that merchants could re-import wine and not declare its travel history when selling it on.

A wine’s provenance affects its perceived quality, and can also affect its price.

Precise details of the wine cited by customs and where it came from were not available, but it was all packaged in containers under two litres, indicating bottles or magnums.

French wine from other regions is also re-imported, but not to the same extent. Only €7m of Burgundy re-entered France in 2012.

‘Everyone is bound to be highly discreet about this, but it is clear that many of the big négociants will buy back stock, particularly if the exchange rate makes it favourable to do so,’ said Louise Domenitz, of eProvenance, a company that tracks the temperature of wines during transit and storage.

The CIVB said the practice was of small concern. It estimated 1m bottles-worth came back into France in 2012.

‘The figures are perhaps 0.3% of the total volume of Bordeaux exported, and very little [of the re-imported wine] comes from outside of Europe,’ said CIVB spokesperson Valerie Descudet. She added that some international retailers are known to export wine in bulk, bottle it and then distribute it to various markets, including France.

‘Bordeaux, as is well known, has long bought back wine,’ said James Swann, of UK wine merchant Brocour.

‘A potentially far more significant matter is the possibility of re-importing from far farther afield, like Hong Kong.’ As a broker, he said that he has been offered stock that has been openly declared ex-Hong Kong, for example.

‘The obvious question is how many such offers or lists may pass through the market that simply do not do so? It’s impossible to say either way at this point,’ he told decanter.com, adding that the question deserves further discussion.

Charles Sichel, export director at négociant Maison Sichel, said he was aware of some merchants bringing stock back from Japan, likely to benefit from the exchange rate. Sichel, he said, only buys direct from the chateaux.

Paul Marus, of UK merchant Corney & Barrow, said many negociants are conscious of the issue and seek to reassure customers by ‘advertising their stock as having never left Bordeaux’.

(Editing by Chris Mercer)

This article was updated on 21/03 at 5pm UK time to include expanded commentary from James Swann.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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