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Wine trade ups and downs

Hungarian wine production is on the rise; Spanish Cava brand Freixenet is launching a special push this summer; and Napa Valley sales are plunging

Ups

Hungary is a bit of a sleeping giant among Euro wine producers, with lots of potential yet untapped. Only 70 million hectolitres is exported, but three times as much is sold at home. Exports rose by 29% in 2008 and for 2009, despite the recession, value sales had risen by around 7% by the first quarter.

Spanish Cava brand Freixenet is launching a special push this summer and concentration will be on the Cordon Negro and Rosado labels. They are promising good PR and sampling support for retailers.

EU Agricultural Minister, Mariann Fischer Boel has announced abandonment of plans to permit rosé to be made from a blend of red and white wines. European producers of traditional rosé had protested vigorously, insisting that the scheme would damage the quality image of rosé and create unfair competition for delimited regions which grow predominantly red grapes. Fischer Boel admitted that the reversal was a response to producer pressure and French producer spokesman, Xavier de Voluntat, described the move as a “wise decision.”

Downs

Drinks conglomerate Constellation is to move Irish distribution of its brands from its Allied Drinks subsidiary. From August 1, Barry & Fitzwilliam will act as third party distributor for the brands, which include Errazuriz, Villa Maria and Hardys. Talks have begun with Allied’s 20 employees are some redundancies are likely.

Sales of California’s Napa Valley wines have plunged, especially at the top end, while the Wine Institute of California announced that the value of California’s wine exports fell last year for the first time in 15 years. The bid total for the 2009 Napa Valley wine auction came to $5.7 million as against $10.4 million in 2008.

Drinks giant Fosters has launched a new marketing campaign in an effort to off-load over 30 vineyards and two winemaking facilities. Around 4,000 hectares of land are believed to be on sale with a valuation of some Aus$500 million.

Also about to conclude a sale is the Saint James Company, based in Santa Monica, California. It is purchasing one of Ireland’s favourite New Zealand producers of sauvignon blanc, Lawson’s Dry Hills. Up to now a family run concern, Saint James has promised that it won’t be changing the style or quality of the wines.

Wine exports from France are expected to drop by around 20% in value for 2009, with all regions affected. Even Champagne has not been immune with LVMH reporting a sales fall of around 35% for the first quarter of this year. Bordeaux’s en primeur campaign has also suffered from recessionary bite, with many chateaux fetching only 40% of last year’s price; at Sauternes’ Chateau d’Yquem, the drop has been 59%. 

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