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French producers are benefiting from the gap left in the mid-range, off-trade market due to the decline in demand for Australian wines.
Michel Batille, head of Les Vignobles Foncalieu, a union of co-operatives based in the South of France, and overseeing 1,200 winemakers in the region, spoke to Harpers at ViniSud about the difficulties it had trying to retain investment in the UK off-trade market.
He said in 2000 and 2001 its level of export was at 12 million bottles to the UK, but it dropped to half that because supermarket lead BOGOFF deals and other promotions undermined investment.
Having recently signed up with Thierry’s to help promote its off-trade market, Batille said: “It’s been a miserable few years in off-trade exports because of the war on price.
“But there’s now a massive gap in the market, as the UK consumer is veering toward better quality wines and are becoming more aware of lesser known grape varieties.
“We want to get back to selling 12 million bottles again to the UK off-trade.”
Other companies are also starting to feel a “bubbling” of confidence returning to the market.
Jérôme d’Hurlaborde, export director for Northern Europe at AdVini, said he is currently in negotiation with several UK distributors who are all looking for “something different”.
“It’s small volumes, but it feels nice to work with people who know what they are doing.
“Price fighting was/is going nowhere, it’s a lost cause and just erodes the revenue of everyone.”
Ryan O’Connell, winemaker at O’Vineyards in Carcassonne, thinks France is beginning to have the same kind of exposure the New World received a decade ago.
“It feels like people are coming home.
“In 2011 we sold 40,000 bottles in the UK via Naked Wines, in 2012 we’re predicting to export 140,000, for us it’s crazy.”
Story by Carol Emmas
Courtesy of Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review