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European winemakers facing bottle shortage

A shortfall of up to 1.5bn wine bottles across Europe is putting producers at risk of not fulfilling orders.

The shortfall of bottles has been estimated at anywhere between 60 million and 1.5 billion units.

Various factors are responsible: consolidation that has seen five companies merge to become two, the oil crisis making the production process more expensive, and strikes and accidents affecting the two biggest companies in France, St Gobain and Owens Illinois, the American company which recently bought BSN Glasspack.

Michel Gaillard, production director at André Lurton in Bordeaux told decanter.com there is also a positive reason for the shortfall: ‘the rise in exports across Europe, and France in particular, as the wine sector rebounds from its slump’.

Co-operatives and branded wine owners are affected most, as they need large volumes and often change suppliers every year, depending on cost.

Higher quality producers, and smaller producers, tend to have long-standing relationships with single suppliers and so are getting bottles, ‘but even those have to be ordered well in advance and are more expensive than in previous years,’ added Gaillard.

Jean Christophe Mau of negociants Yvon Mau said another factor is the fact that the glass industry is slow to react to spikes in demand, as the production process is slow and plants can only work to a certain capacity.

‘Recent demand for clear glass for rosé wines, for example, has not been easily fulfilled. Factories are already working at full capacity and demand has exceeded growth. We have no difficulty with the more expensive bottles for our family properties, but it’s a genuine problem for our bigger volume brands.’

Prices for glass have risen between 7% and 10% over the past two years – and as most branded wines export to highly specific price points, that means any rises have to be absorbed by them, not passed down the supply chain.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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