Beaujolais Nouveau affected by supply chain problems

Bottles of the 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau vintage are on display during a countdown in Tokyo on November 17, 2016.

Yoshikazu Tsuno | Gamma-Rapho | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Every year, on the third Thursday in November, at exactly 12:01 am, the French bring out their famous first wine of the harvest – the crisp and fruity Beaujolais Nouveau.

This year, American wine lovers woke up to a Beaujolais Nouveau market hampered by supply chain issues that have become all too common in today’s economy, particularly driver shortages and other shipping issues.

And all of this translates into cost increases for suppliers and consumers alike.

“There are definitely issues with the supply chain. There is always an issue with the containers and there is always a space issue on the ships, but it’s been really tough this year,” said Dennis. Kreps, co-founder of importer Quintessential Wines, which is based in Napa Valley, California.

The market was already at a disadvantage due to climatic issues. Beaujolais Nouveau production has fallen by nearly 50% this year due to spring frosts and hail, followed by drought.

“It’s kind of a phenomenon that’s happening all over the world right now,” Kreps said. “I know some of the numbers in France in particular are down dramatically in all regions. Beaujolais has been one of the hardest hit.”

Delicate grapes, difficult problems

Kreps, the exclusive American importer of the eminent wine merchant Georges Duboeuf, coordinates with a small team the colossal logistics of distributing the wine to American retailers according to the precise French calendar.

In Beaujolais, considered a sub-region of Burgundy, vineyards line around 42,000 hectares of low granite hills north of Lyon, in eastern France.

This is where thin-skinned magenta gamay reigns supreme and Georges Duboeuf reigns supreme.

Duboeuf, affectionately known as “Papa du Beaujolais”, has the Gamay grapes harvested by hand in September. A rapid fermentation follows and bottling in October.

A picker cuts grapes in a Beaujolais vineyard in eastern France in early September 3, 2018, during this year’s first Beaujolais harvest.

Philippe Desmazes | AFP | Getty Images

Beaujolais Nouveau – generally light in body with a juicy and fruity palate – is then shipped worldwide and staged for its debut in November.

First, Beaujolais suppliers had to secure the containers to start shipping. Then they worried about delays in ports.

“You can’t control the backlog in ports,” Kreps said.

A ship was diverted from New York to Norfolk, Virginia due to a major backup, he said. The ship to New York typically carries the majority of the wine intended for distribution across the country, Kreps added.

“Then we had to reroute all the drivers and trucks from New York to Norfolk, then get the containers off the ship and send these guys straight to the west coast,” Kreps said.

They also had problems hiring qualified drivers due to a labor shortage, he said.

“We’ve never had a problem before, but a truck overturned, so everything on that container was lost,” he said. “So unfortunately all of the Arkansas wine has been lost, most of the Memphis wine has been lost, and I think a lot of the wine from West Virginia has been lost.”

Beaujolais grapes rest in a basket in the “Moulin a Vent” vineyard, near Chenas, Beaujolais, eastern France, on August 26, 2015, after this year’s first Beaujolais harvest.

Jean-Philippe Ksiazek | AFP | Getty Images

Yet even with all the supply and production issues – shipping costs tripled and the cost of the fruit itself was also significantly higher – a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau will sell for a slightly higher retail price this year. than usual, Kreps said.

“We had already committed to pricing all of our wholesalers, wholesalers call retailers, retailers then committed to quantities,” he said. “Now is not the time to come back to them with increased costs. So we worked with the cellar and ate the cost. “

Kreps had a positive message for people who can get their hands on a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau: Despite all the difficulties with the supply chain and the small harvest, he said, “the quality is fantastic.”

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