Prices of Burgundy wines fall by 21%

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IT WAS more a frisson than an earthquake that rippled through the vineyards of Burgundy this week at the news that prices for the 1993 vintage fell by 21 per cent on average at the annual Hospices de Beaune charity auction on Sunday.

An indifferent vintage in 1993, coupled with a static market, fuelled speculation before the auction, which acts as a barometer of the price of the latest vintage, that prices would drop. Although braced for a fall, Burgundy was nevertheless surprised prices plummeted so dramatically.

In its eve of harvest report on 30 August, the Bureau Interprofessionel des Vins de Bourgogne, Burgundy's official representative of growers and merchants, was already predicting 'a fine harvest for 1993'. It was not to be. Early optimism was thwarted by poor weather in the last week of September. A number of growers managed to pick their chardonnay early, and are happy with the results. The outcome is likely to be far more variable, however, for growers whose grapes were not ripe enough to be picked before the bad weather.

Market conditions, too, played a significant part in Sunday's price drop. Despite an overall increase in the volume of wines exported in 1992, the value of exports of red burgundy fell by 4 per cent, while white burgundy managed a mere 2 per cent increase.

Overall, red wines were down 23 per cent, white wines 5 per cent. The sale of 759 barrels of wine and 25 barrels of spirits netted a total of 10,877,478 French francs ( pounds 1,279,700).