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Thirsty Far East Boosts Bordeaux Sales

The historic Place de la Bourse next to the Garonne River in Bordeaux city center
© Fotolia | The historic Place de la Bourse next to the Garonne River in Bordeaux city center
Asian drinkers keep Bordeaux out of the red.

Bordeaux wine sales continue to rise, stimulated by a thirsty export market that is in contrast to falling French consumption of the region’s wines.

Bordeaux recorded a 2 percent increase in volume sales and a 10 percent growth in value in the year ending July 2012, according to figures released by the regional trade association, the CIVB, on Monday.

The region has defied the economic downturn, shipping 5.5m hectoliters of wine worth 4.3 billion euros ($5.6bn) in the last year.

While “the current and future economic situation remains difficult, the figures for 2012 can be considered satisfactory,” said Georges Haushalter, president of the CIVB.

The upward curve is largely thanks to massive sales growth in the Far East. “One bottle in four is exported to China and Hong Kong," said Haushalter. "It is an extraordinary development. We have multiplied export volumes [to this market] 100 times in the space of 10 years,” 

The Asian market has also evolved during this period, explained Jean-Philippe Code, director of economics and research at the CIVB. “Ten years ago we exported only high-end products like grands crus; today, we send large volumes of entry-level and mid-range quality wines," he said.

While there are concerns that the Chinese bubble will burst, Code believes that such fears are unwarranted. Skeptics “incorrectly” compare the Chinese market to the booming Japanese market in the late 1990’s, which subsequently collapsed in 1997–98.

“In China, the market has greater depth, which did not exist in Japan," said Code. "The market is increasing in the major cities but also in the minor cities, which each have populations of more than one million people.”

The only disappointment for the Bordelais is the performance of the domestic market, which has contracted by 2 percent over the last year. Code attributes the region’s decline to young drinkers and women choosing white and rosé over red wines, which represent 90 percent of Bordeaux’s production.

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