Aude – Viticulture: the United States has become “the leading buyer of AOP Languedoc”

In order not to toast in a turbulent global economic context, the cooperative winegrowers of Occitanie, who represent around 80% of the region’s wine volumes, are adapting. Point by point, we go around the expectations and perspectives with the president Ludovic Roux, also at the head of the Terroirs du vertige cellar in Talairan.

95% of wines consumed worldwide are red

With 3.5 million hectoliters marketed abroad in 2021, the cooperators of Occitanie broke their export record and for all wine ranges. Better still, they knew how to value their nectars in terms of price. The market is particularly dynamic in the United States, which has become “the first buyer of AOP Languedoc”.

Ludovic Roux, President of the Occitanie Winegrowers Cooperators.

If it’s more complicated in China, Japan “is becoming a very interesting country, especially for Pays d’Oc wines”. Signals that are all the more favorable because “certainly we have problems with reds in France, but 95% of the wines consumed worldwide are reds”. In addition, “Inflation being lower in France than in other countries, we will gain in competitiveness”.

Inflation and shortage

It remains to be hoped that soaring fuel costs will not dampen this momentum. As well as the shortage of glass.“It’s a real concern if we can’t bottle the wine to sell it. I hope that the public authorities will find a solution so that the glassworks furnaces work and that the situation does not worsen”. Especially since the cooperators are aiming for an increase of 1 million hectoliters to be marketed, part of which will of course go to export.

Not to mention global inflation. 300 to 1,000 € more per hectare for producers, 3 to 5 € more per hectolitre for cellars: the costs, in particular related to energy, increase as for them globally by 20%. “It’s unheard of in such a short time”. Costs that should not necessarily be passed on to the penny for consumers. “We will not be able to increase the price of wine by 20%, otherwise it will be difficult to sell it. The winegrowers are making great efforts, which will have to be spread over the entire sector” explains Ludovic Roux. Moreover, the cooperators rely on trade professionals to remunerate the work of the winegrowers at fair value according to the types of wine produced, “what is not sufficiently done”.

This is particularly valid for the production of wines framed by environmental labels: “If we pay for wines from conventional agriculture at the same price as those that respond to an environmental approach, how can we convince?”.

The wines of cooperative winegrowers are increasingly successful abroad.

The wines of cooperative winegrowers are increasingly successful abroad.

450,000 more hectoliters of organic wine within two years

In terms of organic wines, “our cellars have responded to the demand from merchants and consumers with an increase in production”. And it’s not over. “We are expecting an arrival of additional volume of around 450,000 hectoliters of organic wine in the next two years. I see it as an opportunity. Thanks to these volumes, we will be able to go to markets that we could not not approach”. But these new markets for new volumes, it will take time to win them without selling off the prices so that the sector can live off them. Therefore, the watchword is “no conversion to organic as long as these new volumes have not been digested, at the risk of sending winegrowers to disaster”. Currently, the production and marketing of organic wine is equivalent to 1.1 million hectolitres.

On the other hand, the cooperators are up in arms against the reform of the High Environmental Value label. While 80% of cellars have committed and invested financially to obtain this sesame, sometimes mandatory for AOC wines, “goals evolve too quickly and too strongly, beyond what is possible”. However, the protection of nature is a significant selling point “and we feel betrayed by the public authorities!”. “We agree to progress, but with respect for the farmers. We have made many proposals, but none have been accepted”. Therefore, the union wants “a moratorium and the resumption of discussions, otherwise half of the people involved will no longer be involved and it will be a return to old practices”. Ludovic Roux asks all the cooperative cellars “to put together encrypted and substantiated files to show that this reform would lead us into a wall, and to send them to the minister, the prefect and the public authorities”.

With a harvest estimate

With a “normal” harvest estimate and “satisfactory” stocks, the signals are green for the campaign that is starting.

A grape drink to innovate

The cooperation and the network of merchants rack their brains to invent a new grape-based drink. The objective is “to seek out the consumers of tomorrow because there is enormous potential and only 8% of alcoholic beverages consumed in the world are wine”. Thus, the union is always “looking for solutions for the future”, and good ideas are welcome to feed the debate.

A promising campaign despite a turbulent global context

After the Trump tax, Brexit, covid, frost, winegrowers are facing a new crisis with the war in Ukraine. Despite everything, in 2021, the rise in wine prices “made it possible to withstand the shock”. Currently, the global market “is in equilibrium with a slight increase in wine consumption and stable production”. It is however clear that the French have tasted less wine during the past year. Retail sales have plummeted, “while the previous year they had progressed due to the covid”. In 2022, the cards are reshuffled, with global inflation playing the arbiter in terms of acts of purchase. Moreover, the exponential sales of rosé have not compensated for all the difficulties in marketing red wines. To maintain the balance, the challenge will be to regain market share for AOP and entry-level reds, and “to produce only the rosé that we are able to sell”. Knowing that the cooperators of Occitanie have become the leading producers of rosé wines.

On the production side, all colors combined, the 2022 harvest is estimated “normal” with 12.5 million hectoliters for the Languedoc-Roussillon basin (+30% compared to 2021). As a result, the availability of wines also promises to be satisfactory, not suggesting any shortage. “Having volume is an opportunity to respond to calls for tenders”, emphasizes the president. By focusing on the production of different types of wine (AOC, IGP, varietal wines), “I’m sure we’ll win back 1.5 million hectoliters of sales. Especially since we’re well positioned in terms of value for money and we’re capable of making wine that the vast majority of consumers appreciate” .

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