Bordeaux winemakers staged the biggest protest in nearly two decades to call for government aid for a vine-pulling scheme that is expected to uproot 10% of Bordeaux vineyards following plunging wine demand from its biggest export market, China.
On Tuesday, winemakers and officials in the famed French wine region took to the streets to demand government subsidy of €10,000 for per hectare of vines that are set to be grubbed up.
The government proposed a controversial vine-pulling scheme that would uproot 10% of Bordeaux’s total 108,00 ha vineyards, as a combined result of wine glut, climate change, declining red wine consumption and downturn in exports to China.
The new president of Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB), Allan Sichel, representing the region’s vignerons and negociants, backed the plan but also called for government aid at €10,000 per hectare, or €100 million for the total affected area.
Since 2008, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) changed the rules to prevent subsidies from being spent directly on grubbing up vines.
Winemakers in Bordeaux particularly smaller growers have been buffeted by rising production costs including dry goods, inflation, overproduction and most importantly weaker demand from its biggest export market China which has yet to fully open up.
Bordeaux, long been favored by Chinese wine drinkers for its pedigree and quality, in recent years suffered overstock, stiff competition from more rarified Burgundy and better valued Australian wines.
Its exports to China however surged in 2021 after Australia was slapped with hefty tariffs that essentially upended its exports. Exports from the famous French wine region to the world’s second largest economy amounted to €616 million last year, a 16% increase over 2020, representing 26% of Bordeaux’s overall export value. Bordeaux alone accounts for 72% of all French AOP wines exported to China in value.
However prolonged and repeated lockdowns this year particularly in affluent and main wine consumption centers in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu significantly disrupted wine sales.
“Exports to China and the rest of Asia totally ground to a halt during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine hasn’t helped,” Karim Nasser, owner of Bordeaux wine merchant Signature Selections, told The Telegraph.
The last large-scale protest that broke out in Bordeaux was in 2004 when the region was faced with overproduction, dropping wine price and a government plan to uproot 350 hectares of vines.