November 28th 2013, by Gavin
As a follow-up to ‘Global wine shortage’ and what the UK pays – part 1, here are a few thoughts about the likely impact on UK consumers.
Supply and demand
- A balance between global supply and demand would be welcome. The biggest threat to many good wine growers’ financial stability is that there’s too much wine on the market.
- Over or under supply has to be viewed region-by-region. In Bordeaux, we’re about to see the impact of a small, generally inferior crop in 2013. In the bulk wine market – we’re talking a euro a litre – stocks of 2011 and 2012 (the best of the three) will be swallowed up.
- Elsewhere, as Dan Jago, Director of wines, beers and spirits at Tesco, puts it, ‘there’s a lot of wine around that doesn’t have a home to go to.’
The UK and the rise of ‘Own label’
- It’s fair to say, on this evidence, that UK supermarkets and major retailers are expert at extracting the best price – after all, the UK is a hugely competitive market.
- The average UK retail price of just over £5 contains mostly tax (£2.84). At a fixed £2 per bottle duty, plus 20% VAT on the wine and the duty, a £6 bottle contains £3 of tax. That leaves £3 for the wine, packaging, shipping, distribution and margins.
- I think there’ll be an even stronger move towards ‘own label’ brands in the UK, away from the unsustainable fakery of ‘half-price’ offers on brands.
- The UK sells more ‘own label’ brands than elsewhere: 50% of retail brands sold in the UK are ‘own label’, compared to just 5% in the US.
- Tesco’s Finest wine range has risen to 139 lines, Marks & Spencer’s wines are almost all ‘own label’, the inexpensive Aldi Exquisite range has been quite well received, and so on. As ‘own label’ wines are attractively priced and discounted less, that has to be welcome. Consumers know where they stand – brand wise, price wise, quality wise.
- ‘Own label’ brands are used not just by supermarkets and retailers but also by agents and importers for the UK restaurant, bar and pub trade.
- Champagne and ‘fine wine’ apart, you’re increasingly unlikely to see the same label from a supermarket or major online retailer in a bar or restaurant. Unlike in Spain, for example, where you know where you are with brands that span both on and off-premise.
- So don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t recognise the wines labels on a restaurant or pub wine list. You’re not supposed to, and even wine experts can be clueless on this one.
November 28th 2013, by Gavin
Last week, I presented at a global wine conference in London, called Wine Vision. One presentation was on the ‘trials and tribulations of selling direct’, the other on digital communications, as part of a panel.
There were a few things to be gleaned from the event, other than the obvious networking thing (and, my word, there are some brilliant people in the wine trade):
One, if you want to fill a room, talk about how digital and social media can work for business. Two, that the US and China are the growing markets for wine.
Which brings me onto the news story about the global wine shortage. We’ve had numerous messages from friends who are concerned that wine is about to run out. Don’t worry, it isn’t, but there are some interesting points to come out of the detailed report by Morgan Stanley Research.
You can download the 77-page, 1.3mb pdf here. It reads like a massive Infographic.
The report made the mainstream news because of some fairly startling observations about a ’global shortfall’. Here’s the executive summary (page 3):
- ‘Global wine production peaked in 2004 and continues to decline. In 2012, production declined to its lowest level in 40+ years. Global consumption inflected (?) in 2010 and continued growing in 2011 and 2012.’
- ‘Global under-supply is at its deepest level in more than 40 years. Data suggests there may be insufficient supply to meet demand in coming years, as current vintages are released.’
- ‘In the past couple of years, production declines have continued in France, Spain and Italy and new world production has peaked.’
- ‘The French remain the largest consumers of wine, with consumption maintaining a positive trend since 2010, following decades of decline. The US is now a very close second.’
- ‘The US and China are the main drivers of consumption growth globally.’
My experience of late, both here in Bordeaux and at the event in London, certainly supports that last point. (China came from nowhere to become the largest export market for Bordeaux in only five years.)
November 26th 2013, by Gavin
Many thanks to everyone who chipped in for the Bauduc hail sale. The offer on our 2010 and 2011 whites went down really well and prices are still at a knockdown rate, so do stock up before the Christmas rush; if it’s been on your to-do list, please take a minute to order.
It was great to see the ‘hail sale’ in the Telegraph wine column at the weekend. In her article on buying online, Victoria Moore perfectly summed up what we’re all about, after mentioning Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Laithwaites and The Wine Society.
‘But for me the real thrill of online wine shopping is the chance to escape the giants. It’s all about stories, immediacy, connection, a chance to root around making new discoveries or, more to the point, getting in touch with people who’ve made them for you, buying the wine you want when you want and having it delivered all with sublime ease.*
One online micro-trend gathering momentum is for producers to sell direct to customers. Think of the likes of Gavin Quinney, whom I wrote about over the summer when swathes of his crop were smashed by bad weather, and who is now having a “hail sale” (Bauduc) to try to get back on his feet.’
Back in August, we emailed everyone with a link to Victoria’s article ’Hailstorms: when ice and wine don’t mix’. A dramatic piece about our little catastrophe was probably not the ideal press coverage but it was a welcome silver lining:
November 16th 2013, by Gavin
Twitter’s new custom timeline feature is a nifty way of bringing together a few choice tweets on any subject. (Here’s a brief guide and a video on how to create a custom timeline using Twitter’s Tweetdeck, which is how timelines have to be created. I recommend Tweetdeck if you run two or more Twitter accounts; mine are @GavinQuinney and @ChateauBauduc, while @BauducAnge spends most of her time following cricket.)
Scroll up and down inside the box to see the brief selection of tweets. We’ll be updating the timeline, so you’ll see more recent tweets than the date of this blog post. Thank you to everyone who has tweeted… and keep tweeting.
Here’s what it looks like on Twitter. If you have any questions, do ask in the comments box below, or send us a tweet.
Twitter grew 44% from June 2012 to March 2013, according to a survey.
November 8th 2013, by Gavin
A handsome package arrived this week, and inside was a razor-sharp trophy. It was a ‘Special Recognition Award’ from the Harpers French Wine Awards and I’m extremely chuffed to be able to stick it on the mantelpiece next to our grumpy bronze boar.
I was gutted, in fact, not to have been able to collect the prize in person at the awards ceremony in London – you don’t get many rounds of applause in a vineyard – but it was the night before Angela’s birthday and I’d promised to bring her tea in the morning.
The funny thing is, the prize isn’t for our wine at all. It’s for writing and tweeting. Richard Siddle, the editor of the UK-based trade magazine and known as ‘chief’ in the wine business, wrote the flattering explanation below on the Harpers website. Forgive me for modestly including the title of the article but it really shows that the little people – in wine, at least – can make the headlines above the ‘Supermarket of the Year’ and the like.
All the winners and finalists are listed below, with links to their Twitter pages (hey, Twitter’s all about sharing).
“Gavin Quinney, the English winemaker who owns and produces wine at Chateau Bauduc in Bordeaux, has won the Special Recognition Award at the first Harpers French Wine Awards.
Quinney received the honour for the work he has done in giving the wine trade as a whole a fascinating insight into the day-to-day highs and lows of being a winemaker and running a Bordeaux winery.
Quinney has become a one-man publicity machine not only for his own business but for helping promote French wine overall, Bordeaux wine in particular, and for airing some of the more lively and controversial issues facing French wine in such engaging and entertaining way.
He has built up such a following online through social media that he has more Twitter followers than prestigious Bordeaux houses and many of the generic French wine bodies.
October 22nd 2013, by Gavin
The 2013 Bordeaux harvest is drawing to a close as the last of the Cabernets and final Sémillon selections for sweet whites are picked. Sighs of relief all round.
’C’est pas mûr (ripe)’ said the cellar master as he gestured towards the unpicked vines; the bunches were admirably free of rot, thanks to the colder, later-ripening terroir.
I’ve tasted a lot of red grapes in the last few weeks around Bordeaux and he just about summed it up. Most reds have had to come in before they were ripe. This should have been a late October harvest, by rights, given the extremely late flowering in June and retarded colour change that dragged on into early September. (In between, we had a hot July and a pretty good August – but don’t mention the hail).
If there are any successes, and there will be some, they are triumphs over adversity. This has been the most difficult growing season for red Bordeaux that I’ve seen in fifteen harvests, capped by nerve-jangling conditions for the picking.
The threat of rot at harvest time is also the most acute I’ve witnessed. Many chateaux have picked healthy-looking grapes in the nick of time, or sorted them as best they could. Seeing so many botrytis-affected bunches discarded beneath the vines has been a sad but necessary image.
It’s not that the 2013 harvest has been blighted by days on end of incessant rain. What we’ve had is a series of two-day stints of rain, starting with the last weekend of September (27-29), then 3-4 October (we had 75mm in two days here, 20 kms south east of Bordeaux) and more downpours over the weekend of 12 October.
In between we’ve seen the windows for harvesting and, simultaneously, dangerous periods of warmth and humidity which are ideal for the spread of botrytis. (Even now, in the third week of October, it’s a clammy 19°C this morning.) The picking schedules have largely been determined by the staying power of the grapes in any given parcel.
October 22nd 2013, by Gavin
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Another year, another harvest. Only this one – our 15th would you believe – was our toughest yet. I suspect many Bordeaux growers will be thinking along the same lines, and 90% of them didn’t get hit by the Summer hail.
There are some bright spots at Bauduc. We have got some good tanks of white and rosé fermenting away.
After losing much the crop in the hail on 2 August, and spurred on by scores of supportive comments on our blog, we managed to lease some vineyards from another chateau.
By taking out a lease ahead of the harvest, and not just buying grapes, we are able to mix the grapes with those from our own vineyard and label the wine ’Chateau Bauduc’. (As a grower, buying grapes from other growers is not permitted, except when there’s a special ruling after a disaster. Only the French…)
Not wanting to tempt fate, we’ve kept this under our hats until the harvest was in. Time (and our accountant) will tell whether we made the right call, but we felt the chances of making enough good wine from our own vines alone were fairly slim.
I’ll be writing the indispensable guide on ’How to borrow another chateau’s vineyard’ soon.
October 9th 2013, by Gavin
A complicated year, a complicated harvest. After a fraught growing season in 2013 (see my pre-harvest report for a detailed overview), most Bordeaux chateaux and vignerons have had to bring in their Merlots rather sooner than planned, before the dreaded rot sets in. Some Cabernets are following in quick succession (as at Lafite-Rothschild in Pauillac, below) but now that the sun has come out, there’s a ray of hope for those that can hold on for a little while longer.
It’s all a far cry from the à la carte harvests of 2009 and 2010, when you could pick and choose at leisure. ’Une année compliquée’ is a polite way of describing 2013 and can be used by owners and managers without giving their public relations people a headache. It’s really code for a bit of a shocker.
The weather at the end of September and for the first days of October proved, unfortunately, to be ideal for the development of botrytis – otherwise known as rot. Sultry heat and too much rain over the weekend of 27-29 September was perfect for the champignons in the bunches to thrive and forced growers on both banks to be extra vigilant and, for most, to take swift action.
In many cases they’ve had to harvest red grapes long before they had had a chance to ripen, and only the tiniest estates in places like Pomerol can bring in everything at the same time. Out in the vineyards, it’s been all mud-clogged wellies, short sleeved shirts and waterproofs. Until this week that is, with the welcome boost of chilly, bright mornings and warm sun in the afternoon.
October 3rd 2013, by Gavin
I’m not sure when we decided to pick at the weekend but I think it was on the Friday morning. A few calls to Guy, who rents and drives the machine, and it was all booked. Mind you, it’s lucky we’re happy to harvest at a ridiculous hour at the weekend, because all his normal weekday slots were getting booked up by neighbouring chateaux.
It’s also lucky that he’s based here on site at Bauduc, with two machines, another driver, fuel, cleaning facilities and a rather unattractive caravan (below, left). We’ve yet to let his tyres down on the way to another customer but you never know.
It was the last weekend of September and the final week, after a mixed fortnight, was dry and sunny. This had certainly helped the white grapes ripen. The acidity had dropped and the sugar levels, the flavours and aromas had developed well. We do look at the numbers from the analysis of the grapes but the taste, with a bit of experience, is the important thing.
Then, with rain and sweltering humidity on the Friday, we had to pick before rot set in. We could see in the bunches that within a few days the rot would spread quickly, like a blackened banana in a bowl of ripe peaches. The weekend could make all the difference. Time to act.
One thing I’ve learnt is that nature doesn’t stick to a five-day week, so we don’t think of weekends any differently during the harvest. We also like to machine pick early in the morning – for freshness – and we’re lucky to have, in Daniel and Nelly, two tireless workers who don’t worry about the time of day or the usual Monday to Friday routine. They have been with us from the start, including the first five harvests which were all by hand.
September 27th 2013, by Gavin
As the Bordeaux harvest begins, here is a detailed report on the weather so far this year and its impact on the vines.
It’s fair to say that my earlier updates on the 2013 growing season in Bordeaux have been less than enthusiastic. Running late in May, The flowering and Soggy Vinexpo, sodden vines in June, Lafite’s weeping willows in July and then, in August, the Hail in Bordeaux series of posts hardly paint a rosy picture.
Yet even at this stage at the end of September, this roller coaster vintage is still too early to call. The weather in October for the red harvest (Bordeaux is 88% red) will be crucial. Even before then, storms are forecast for this weekend, after a week of sunshine.
To follow my harvest updates on Twitter, type the following in the Twitter search box: from:gavinquinney #bdx13
TEN THINGS WE DO KNOW
1. 2013 is an exceptionally late harvest. (Or should be.)
2. 2013 will be a small crop in Bordeaux overall.
3. A cold first half of the year held up growth in the vineyard.
4. An unusually cold, wet May and downpours in June led to late, uneven flowering.
5. July was hot and dry, August sunny, September up and down. October is key.
6. An August hailstorm hit more than 10,000 hectares – about 10% of the Bordeaux vineyard – but none of the top châteaux.
7. Quality and yields will be extremely variable – the contrast is evident in the vineyards.
8. The dry white harvest has started well, while prospects for sweet whites are ‘promising’.
9. The red harvest is likely to be a race against time (and rot) as the autumn weather draws in.
10. The advantage lies with those who have the resources and equipment to be highly selective.