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Reducing yields not an option, Champagne union says

The president of the main Champagne growers’ union has said cutting yields is ‘unacceptable’.

Patrick le Brun, President of the Syndicat General des Vignerons de la Champagne (SGV) was reacting to the major houses’ suggestion that yields for the 2009 harvest will have to be cut back dramatically.

In view of the current slump in sales in the first part of 2009, yields as low as 7,500kg/ha, equivalent to about 210m bottles, have been mooted.

The large groups in Champagne have been talking about both yields and the price of a kilo of grapes needing to fall, with Paul-François Vranken of Vranken-Pommery suggesting yields might need to come down to 7,500kg/ha.

Le Brun said the growers are determined not to go below 10,400kg/ha, which corresponds with global sales of 300m bottles.

‘We will not stop at 8,000kg/ha just to please the big producers. It is not acceptable to us. We have an agreement with them but not to soak up their debt.

‘We split the value when sales go well and we have to share the hard times too.’

Le Brun also pointed out that sales of grower Champagnes – wines made by single growers rather than blended – were not doing nearly as badly as Champagnes from the big houses, so they needed to replenish their own stocks.

While the major houses’ worldwide shipments were down 31.4% in the first quarter of 2009, a fall of just over 12.5m bottles, the growers’ own shipments fell only 8.8% in the same three-month period.

Le Brun did not comment on suggestions that the price of grapes needs to fall to between €4.5 and €5/kg, from the average price of €5.35 paid in 2008.

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Written by Giles Fallowfield

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