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Tax-Free Wine Storage Comes to Bordeaux

Change to French customs law allows wine trade to store wines tax free in bonded warehouses, cutting costs and inefficiencies

James Suckling
Posted: June 29, 2009

Wine exporters, merchants and consumers will soon be able to store fine Bordeaux tax-free in secure, climate-controlled warehouses just down the road from the châteaus, thanks to a change in French tax legislation last week. The change in the law affects all of France, but Bordeaux already has two bonded warehouses ready to store wine—Bordeaux City Bond and a subdivision of Joanne, a well-known négociant. (The Joanne facility currently has no name, but will soon.)

While the change to tax law sounds arcane, it could have a big impact on the business of buying, selling and collecting Bordeaux. Wine buyers around the world can consolidate wine shipments and store them tax-free for an unlimited period of time. For example, a wine merchant from New York could buy Bordeaux from a number of different négociants and have the wine shipped straight to an account at BCB, where they would be held in bond until exported. French law previously allowed tax-free storage for two years, after which the 19.6 percent value-added tax had to be paid.

Because the United Kingdom had bonded warehouses, many merchants simply sent all their wines there to be stored. Last year's abolishment of taxes in Hong Kong on wine has helped develop a similar business there for Asian buyers. "We hope that some of this business will come our way," said Pierre Antoine Castèja, head of Joanne. "How much business did we lose in the past? I have no idea, but I think we have lost a lot.

"I have no idea what the reaction will be," said Castèja. "But it's fundamental that importers and collectors can leave their stock in Bordeaux, and there is no problem with storage and transportation. It is like a guarantee of ex-château." Collectors buying their wines in Bordeaux could have the wines stored in the warehouses until they auction them later, guaranteeing excellent provenance.

Castèja said that Joanne had already established an in-bond storage company within his négociant business about four years ago. The space measures about 38,000 square feet and is temperature and humidity controlled. But customers' wine stocks could only be stored tax-free for two years.

Bordeaux City Bond is a slightly smaller endeavor, encompassing about 27,000 square feet. It's located near Vinexpo on the outskirts of Bordeaux. The Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Vinexpo own 51 percent of his company, with 12 négociants holding the remainder. "Bordeaux City Bond represents the whole wine trade here," said BCB head Jean-Claude Lasserre. "And we will have the excellence in storage and logistics and the independence."

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