Muscadet wine facing "meltdown"

Muscadet wine facing "meltdown"

Vandals have laid waste to hundreds of thousands of litres of Muscadet wine as the French region faces one of the toughest periods in its recent history.

Nine vats of Muscadet have been deliberately emptied at a production plant run by the Caves de la Nantaise co-operative in Le Pallet, near Nantes, causing a spill of 5,000 hectolitres of wine into surrounding fields.

The attack could mark an escalation of the crisis in Muscadet wine, situated in France's Loire Valley.

Intruders are thought to have entered the Nantaise Co-op premises before dawn yesterday (25 October) and opened the taps at the base of each the 10 metre-high stainless-steel vats.  

The head of Caves de la Nantaise, Noël Bougrier, told just-drinks today that the attack is likely to cost the co-op, made up of 19 winemakers, EUR500,000 (US$697,000) in lost production, as well as extra costs for new vats.

“All lines of enquiry are being explored in the police investigation, ranging from the possibility of the attack being carried out by other wine growers to a mindless act (of vandalism). No conclusions can be drawn at this stage,” he said.

Muscadet winemakers and grape growers were earlier this year forced to apply for EU crisis funds to distil 80,000 hectolitres of unsold wine. A cocktail of bad weather, exchange rates and the general economic downturn has plunged the region into one of its worst crises for many years.

French Government figures show that AOC Muscadet prices, in euros, have fallen by 50% on average in 2010.

Around 60 growers have gone bankrupt since the latest grape harvest began in early September, according to Charles Sydney, a wine broker and owner of the local La Grille Classic Loire wine label.

"Things are now critical and we are facing a situation where there are no obvious savings to be made – the bankruptcies in Muscadet are an illustration of how bad things are," said Sydney in a recent report on Muscadet.