The SW Summary: On economic difficulties in Bordeaux, Misión’s revival, the wine industry’s tough year ahead, and more

By Hanna Halmari
Bordeaux winegrowers call for industry support

Global economic and political instability have fuelled a commercial crisis in Bordeaux over the last few years, and winegrowers are feeling the pressure. Writing for Jane Anson Valeria Tenison highlights the economic difficulty faced by growers. A recent report by the Regional Chamber of Agriculture in France reveals that 70% of farmers across the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region did not earn a minimum wage in 2021. The report covers all the farmers of the Gironde department, 80% of whom are winegrowers.

In December, winegrowers in the Gironde took to the streets in protest calling for a recovery plan. The Chamber of Commerce has responded by launching a survey for winegrowers to develop targeted solutions. Tenison also highlights the legal case brought against two major négociants, Ginestet and Cordier, by Médoc winegrower Rémi Lacombe “for buying his wine of 2019 and 2020 vintages at an ‘abusively low price.’” The liability action is based on the 2019 Egalim law “to fight against abuses by large agri-food companies, and ensure a fair income for farmers.”

The CIVB (Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux) has expressed its support for the winegrowers. It acknowledges that “the imbalance between supply and demand, the many international trade tensions (Covid, Trump taxes, repeated confinements in China, war in Ukraine, inflation) and the decline in consumption in France have seriously weakened many farms.” Read more here.

Waitrose switches from glass to cans

Footprint reports on the recent decision by Waitrose to package most of its small wine formats in cans instead of glass bottles. Given the high carbon footprint of glass and soaring glass prices, Waitrose aims to reduce emissions and save resources with the move. The article quotes Barry Dick, MW, beer, wine and spirit bulk sourcing manager at Waitrose, who explains how “[a]luminium cans weigh significantly less than glass and create less than half the amount of CO2 than the equivalent single-use glass bottle. Cans can also be recycled an infinite number of times.”

According to Wine Traders for Alternative Formats, a coalition of wine companies and writers, “switching from glass to alternative formats could save as much as 750,000 tonnes of CO2e every year in the UK alone.” However, recycling infrastructure remains a challenge, as “concerns over costs and divergence between [deposit return] schemes in different parts of the UK persist.” Read more here.

Misión’s revival: Winemakers turn to the past for the vineyard of the future

“We’re in a giant experiment of climate change and wine.” So declares scientist Cesar Valenzuela from Mexico’s National Institute of Research for Forests, Agriculture, and Livestock. Valenzuela is quoted in Alejandra Borduna’s recent article for the National Geographic, in which she explores the climate adaptation strategies underway in Europe, Mexico, Chile, and the U.S.

Increasing temperatures, severe droughts, and unpredictable weather events continue to place harvests at risk and winegrowers are busy developing “the vineyards of the future.” Borunda highlights how vintners across the world are rediscovering an ancient – and highly climate-adaptable – grape variety called misón. Brought to North America by Spanish missionaries over 500 years ago, the varietal is incredibly resilient. Misón grown in experimental vineyards has proven to thrive in the dry conditions and heat waves that have caused so many popular varietals to struggle.

Winemaker Aldo Quesada at Viñas del Tigre in Baja California, Mexico shares how his rows of tempranillo grapes, which he watered twice a week for five months, only produced “a few anaemic bunches” last year. In stark contrast, he watered his misón vines just five times all year and “still had plenty to fill a whole wooden press.” Quesada stresses how “this is the theme of climate change. We have to learn to use less or make more things with the same amount.” Read more here.

State of Wine Industry Report 2023: A tough year ahead

Silicon Valley Bank published its annual State of Wine Industry Report for 2023. Written by Rob McMillan, the report shows a decline in overall wine consumption for the second consecutive year and predicts a tough year ahead. McMillan stresses how the industry must attract a new generation of consumers and collaborate “to solve the obvious demand problem for the wine category.”

A couple key takeaways include:

  1. The only growth segments are among the 60+ consumer bands
  2. Premium wines continue to see growth, despite losses in overall wine market share to spirits
  3. More consumers are abstaining from wine
  4. Climate change impacts come in many different forms, including increased costs. The industry will need to “remain agile and factor in new risks in planning”

Download the full report here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.