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Hail-struck Bordeaux winemakers to top up with bulk AOC wine

Bordeaux winemakers who lost vines to violent hail storms over the summer will be allowed to buy bulk AOC wine to boost volumes.

A decree allowing Bordeaux winemakers to source extra AOC wine from the same appellation was approved this week by Michel Delpeuch, director of the Aquitaine regional body, after an intervention by the Bordeaux Wine Bureau (CIVB).

The region’s winemakers have been lobbying French agriculture minister Stéphane le Foll for emergency relief, amid warnings that thousands of jobs are at risk after hail damaged 25,000 hectares of vines, with Entre deux Mers, Castillon and Libourne the most severely affected.

In total, 350 properties in the Gironde region lost more than 80% of their crop, with an estimated value of €70m, and more than 70% of them were not insured. A further 1,400 properties were affected, but less severely.

After hail, winemakers typically allowed to rent vines to harvest grapes, not buy finished wine. This year, however, they can rent vines until September 10th and buy AOC wine in bulk up until July 31 2014.

The rule only applies to winemakers who have lost more than 30% of their average production as declared over the last five years, and the volume purchased must not exceed 80% of their production, again averaged over five years.

Winemakers can only buy wine in bulk from the same appellation as themselves and must source from the 2013, 2012 or 2011 vintages for red wines, and 2013 or 2012 for white.

The chateau name will not be allowed on the label, only the term ‘cuvée’ or similar, but an image of a chateau building is allowed. All lots purchased will be controlled to assure their quality, and must pass through wine brokers.

‘This will help avoid disruptions in supply,’ Hervé Grandeau, owner of Chateau Lauduc and new president of AOC Bordeaux/Bordeaux Superieur told decanter.com. ‘But the fact that you cannot bottle under your chateau label will put many people off. Renting vines is still preferable.’

Le Foll visited the Bordeaux region to meet winemakers last week, but so far no French government help has been forthcoming. ‘This is a government looking to save money,’ said Grandeau. ‘Le Foll is minister of agriculture, he’s not Father Christmas.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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