Nothing to wine about really

ONBOARD’s wine guru Claire Mottershaw talks about global wine production which hit a 62 year low in 2023

‘Once again extreme climatic conditions such as early frost, heavy rainfall and drought have significantly impacted the output of the world vineyard,’ announced the International Organisation for vine and wine (OIV) recently. At the same time they predicted that 2023’s world wine production will be the worst since 1961.

At face value, this is a dire warning about the availability of our favourite tipples. It conjures visions of empty supermarket shelves and panic buyers stuffing their trolleys with as much Vinho Verde and Bordeaux Superieur as can lay their hands on.

If we drill into the details we quickly find that the picture is far less stark. The largest climactic effects were felt in the Southern hemisphere with Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil all seeing wine production drop between 10 and 30%. These figures are undoubtedly bad news but, while these countries are important to the global wine market, they are far less popular within the Yachting sector.

On the other hand New Zealand held its own, seeing an increase in production over its five year average, and California had a bumper crop with yields up 12%. The wines from these two countries account for far more of the wines found in onboard cellars than the rest of the Southern Hemisphere combined.

In Europe, Spain and Italy were worst affected (down 14% and 12% respectively), however France maintained the same production as 2022.

We have seen a definite decrease in the supply of top end wines over the last few years, particularly from regions such as Burgundy where a succession of ‘bad’ vintages meant that there were far fewer bottles of younger vintages released onto the market. As demand for these wines remained high, the result was that suppliers and distributors sold through any and all of their stocks of older vintages and warehouses began to run dry. In other regions such as Champagne, the COVID epidemic forced producers to open new sales markets in the Far East which, now that the world has returned to a semblance of normality, leaves less available for European distribution.

The good news is that both Champagne and Burgundy had significantly better harvests in 2023 than the rest of the wine world. Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) announced that the Burgundy harvest has surpassed all expectations, providing both “stunning” quality and plentiful supply especially for white Burgundy – this should mean we see plenty of Chablis, Puligny’s and Chassagne’s back on the market in the next couple of years. Champagne’s 2023 harvest was a record in terms of volume of grapes. The region’s system of supply management means that only the official yield – 11,400kg per hectare in 2023 – will be allowed to be turned into champagne this year. However, the amount that producers can hold back, “in reserve”, to boost future harvests that are not so generous has been raised by 2,000kg per hectare. This should solidify the output volumes of Champagne for a good while to come.

In summary, although recent headlines may make for interesting click-bait, it is not quite panic stations just yet in the wine world, and certainly not in the Yachting sector.

We are fortunate enough to trade in some of the finest, rarest and most exquisite wines in the world. When supply goes down and demand stays high, prices inevitable rise. We have already seen large price increases across top lines of Super Tuscans and Grand Cru Burgundies over the last couple of years but our stocks at VSF remain healthy. Our ability to predict these price rises means that we are better placed than ever to supply our clients with 100 point Sassicaia & Masseto, top lines from esteemed Burgundy producers and the Yachting classics like Cristal & Dom Perignon.

VSF GroupClaire Mottershaw,
Executive Director
VSF Group.