Ciatti Report: Decline in Retail on the Horizon?

Well into August, the past 4-6 weeks on the bulk market in many producer countries were as slow, even for what is a traditionally slow time of the year when Europe and North America are on summer holiday. Some already-acquired wines are popping back up again on the market as unexpected inventory; these are sometimes picked up quickly by an alternative buyer, sometimes not. An outlook by winebroker Angelo Cotrone.

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Problematic shipping continues (Photo: Travel mania/Stock.Adobe.com)
Problematic shipping continues (Photo: Travel mania/Stock.Adobe.com)

 

  • Due to high inflation, consumer sales might slow down. Retail should adapt to such a scenario. 
  • Bulk wine markets are quiet, in particular for red wines.
  • Shipping costs fall, but longer shipping times loom.
  • Despite a very hot summer, an average harvest is expected in the Northern hemisphere.
  • The Southern Hemisphere is experiencing the wettest summer for many years.

 

The slow market and the reappearance of inventory is potentially symptomatic of a range of factors: continuation of problematic shipping; dry goods such as bottles being in short supply and/or high in price; a real or projected slowdown in consumer sales as annual inflation rates remain high. Food inflation is particularly high: for example, the US inflation rate fell from 9.1% to 8.5% in July, but only because a decline in fuel prices offset a continued rise in grocery bills. Consequently, it is inevitable that wine suppliers to retail are detecting or projecting a reining-in of consumer spending and revising down their needs accordingly.

Slow Bulk Wine Markets 

The quiet bulk market particularly exacerbates the already declining sales of red wine, inventory of which is large in many producer countries. In Australia, the oversupply on reds – due to China’s import tariffs – has led to conversations around mothballing red vineyards, cross planting to white varieties, or switching to other crops altogether. Australia’s is a unique situation, but reds have long been slow moving also in France, Spain, Argentina (mainly Malbec) and Chile as well. Prices, however, have not necessarily been softening, as suppliers must cover rising input costs.

Decreasing Shipping Costs

Some good news: while other costs are rising, shipping prices are – in general – moving the other way: data from supply chain advisers Drewry shows the average global price for a 40ft container has fallen for 24 consecutive weeks as of 11th August and, while at $6,430/container it remains elevated versus the five-year average of $3,613, it is now well down from the September 2021 peak of $10,377. While the price of shipping is thankfully falling, on the horizon looms the prospect of longer shipping times as vessels reduce speeds to meet new International Maritime Organization carbon intensity standards, which come into force in 2023. Shipping efficiency currently seems to be improving at some ports and on some routes.

Harvest Forecast

Harvesting of the 2022 crop is now getting underway in the Northern Hemisphere. Despite enduring one of the hottest summers on record, the crops in southern France, Spain and Italy still appear to be on course for sizes not far off their averages. California, meanwhile, tentatively expects a crop size below average, though by how much is still unclear.

While Europe has been sweltering, parts of the Southern Hemisphere have been – to much relief – experiencing the wettest winter for many years, with Australia, Argentina and Chile all seeing precipitation deficits slashed, dams nearing capacity and, in the latter two countries, good snowpack levels finally being laid in the mountains. The Western Cape has so far been experiencing a drier than average winter, but has had a wet 12-15 months overall, and there are still three more months for rain to fall before the dry season. 

 

Anticipating and projecting what will occur on the bulk wine and grape markets in the final quarter of this year, once the Northern Hemisphere is back from its summer holidays, is highly challenging, let alone what 2023 may hold. All the more reason to get in touch with Ciatti, who can draw on decades of experience to help you navigate the current and future marketplace.

 

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