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Culture

Beaujolais Nouveau 2012 corks pop after weather reduces crop by half

media Barrels of Beujolais Noveau are rolled out in Lyon early Thursday morning Reuters/Robert Pratta

The world opened 2011’s Beaujolais nouveau on Thursday. But this year’s crop was drastically lower than usual and several hundred vineyards may have to stop production. As the corks popped, far-right leader Marine Le Pen put in an appearance in the vineyard to condemn Europe’s agricultural policy.

Hail, frost and diseases brought on by heavy rain reduced the 2012 crop by half compared to 2011, adding to the problems the appellation already faced of a decline in its reputation and competition from New World wines on the export market.

Japan is the first country to taste Beaujolais nouveau AFP
  • Beaujolais is exported to 110 countries.
  • Japan receives 20 per cent of exports, followed by the US, the UK, Switzerland and Germany.
  • Production fell from 606,000 hectolitres in 1996 to 468,000 hectolitres in 2005.
  • 2011 production totalled 115 million bottles, 36 million of them Beaujolais Nouveau.
  • There are 12 different appellations for red Beaujolais and a lesser known white.

As many as 300 of the roughly 2,500 winegrowers are reported to be facing serious financial difficulties and a special cell has been set up in the region to facilitate requests for aid.

Front National leader Marine Le Pen, who received 20 per cent of the vote in the area during the presidential election, visited the  on Wednesday, stopping off at a sympathetic Beaujolais producer to accuse the European Union of wanting to “liquidate agriculture in the next five years”.

But drinkers, starting with the principal importer, Japan, whose day started earlier than Europe’s, may have been agreeably surprised.

Most Beaujolais, especially the Nouveau, is a quaffing wine that doesn’t aim for viniferous distinction but judges at the 12th annual Beaujolais Nouveau Trophy on 11 November claimed to detect notes of cherry, raspberry and strawberry in a well-rounded and flavoursome wine.

Due to the low production, prices are expected to be 10 to 20 per cent higher than in 2011 but amounts available for export are not likely to go down.

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