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Burgundy’s Catch-22

A special derogation allows growers to buy grapes. Or not
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Sep 27, 2013 11:40am ET

On Sept. 24, the prefecture of the Côte d'Or passed a bylaw allowing growers in Burgundy who were affected by the July 23 hailstorm to purchase grapes or must from the 2013 harvest to make up for the loss of their crop.

The derogation pertains to producers who lost more than 30 percent of their grapes, based on the average crop of the past five harvests, in the villages of Aloxe-Corton, Auxey-Duresses, Beaune, Chorey-lès Beaune, Ladoix-Serrigny, Meursault, Monthélie, Pernand-Vergelesses, Pommard and Volnay.

The allowable amount of grapes or must cannot exceed 80 percent of the average of the past five harvests. Also, vintners have to buy from the appellations that they produce. So, for example, if they lost fruit in Beaune, they can't replace that with grapes or must from Gevrey-Chambertin.

On the surface, this seems like a reasonable solution to deal with agricultural businesses that suffered the vagaries of weather events. You might even think this is good regional government working the way it should work.

The problem is, there are no grapes to buy. Nor will there be must available. Entire vineyards or parts thereof in the communes affected were wiped out. It would make sense if you could purchase fruit from the Côte Chalonnaise or Mâconnais, two areas of Burgundy where the harvest looks good and there may be grapes and/or must to purchase.

With the 2013 harvest looming, many growers in Burgundy are facing their own Catch-22. It is the fourth vintge in a row with small crops in Burgundy, particularly for areas hit by hail during the past two seasons. With strong demand worldwide, this will likely translate to higher prices.

Michael Twelftree
Malvern, South Australia —  September 27, 2013 8:00pm ET
At a tasting at Drouhin a few weeks back they commented that there yields at the top of Clos des Mouches were down by 95%!
Over that week I walked many sites, around Beaune, Volnay and Pommard that will have no fruit to harvest.
Mischief and Mayhem recently closed on a new Domain parcel of Savigny les Beaune Les Gravains, 4 hours after the contract was signing the hail came down, luckily we had little damage.

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