Beaujolais Nouveau Day risks being something of a damp squib this year due to continuing problems in the supply chain.
Bottled wines can be released by producers on Monday, October 11 and can be exported to the UK on Friday, October 22. But some merchants are worried this won’t allow sufficient time for wines to reach stores for the appointed day of Thursday, November 18.
Beaujolais Nouveau Day has become increasingly popular with many indies in recent years, who have seen growing consumer interest in the category following its long spell in the doldrums.
Louise Peverall from La Cave de Bruno in East Dulwich says: “We usually import it from Domaine Penlois, and time it so that we get a full pallet of Beaujolais and top up with some Nouveau.
“It’s been really popular over the last few years and for the past two we’ve had a waiting list. We also sell it by the glass on the terrace.
“That said, it won’t be happening this year as it’s too hard to manage the timings. The last pallet from Beaujolais that we ordered in February took three months to get here as it got stuck in customs in the Netherlands. It’s a pretty quick turnaround from the bottling to the actual day itself, and the way things are it’s unlikely we’ll be able to manage it. It’s such a shame and another unnecessary Brexit blow.”
Tony Schendel of Hayward Bros, which imports Jean Loron Beaujolais, shares Peverall’s concerns.
“We are offering ex-cellar customers the wine but we are not going to ship this year,” he says.
“The reason is although shipping is fine, if you add possible delays at LCB we cannot guarantee we will get the wine in time, and if it arrives late we will be left with it.
“Ex-cellars customers are generally shipping straight into their own warehouses and are saving seven to 10 days.”
Burgundy specialist Tom Innes of Fingal-Rock in Monmouth says a delay would not necessarily be a disaster for Beaujolais Nouveau sales.
“I’m going to risk it,” he says. “Last year I completely sold out and had to ship a second order super-quick, which didn’t arrive till a couple of weeks after the appointed day. My customers didn’t seem to mind that there was a delay.
“I do share the concerns about the timeliness of the shipment, but since people didn’t mind last year, and I will have a much better excuse this year, I’m going to go ahead.”
Mark Isham of Richmond Wine Agencies admits there is a “possibility” of supplies being disrupted but the company is doing all it can to mitigate that risk.
“Last year we ran with it and it managed to arrive on time through all the madness,” he says. “We take pre-orders and give the winery plenty of notice. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
“The issue we’re having is with the hauliers. The winery is ready – getting stock on a container and up to us is not a problem. Hauliers cancelling on the morning when it’s due to be delivered into us is a nightmare at the moment, so that’s the challenge. Wine is in the UK but hauliers getting it to us is proving really troublesome.
“We’ll only ship where we have assurances we’re going to have it in time. We need it a week before in our warehouse ready for distribution and if that isn’t going to happen, I’m going to have worries and concerns and not get behind it in terms of pre-sales to customers because I don’t like letting people down.”
It’s definitely becoming more popular within the indie sector. Some of the Beaujolais Nouveaux that are coming out now are superb
Isham says sales have been increasing in recent years. “Five years ago we were lucky to scrape together a pallet in terms of pre-orders. We shipped five or six pallets last year. I think it has reinvented itself.
“It’s definitely becoming more popular as the years go by within the indie sector. Loads of them that really want to get behind it. Some of the Beaujolais Nouveaux that are coming out now are superb.”
Chris Piper of Christopher Piper Wines in Devon is a Beaujolais producer as well as an importer. He remains upbeat, reporting that his shippers have proved to be efficient despite the current problems.
“Everything they bring in has been pretty much on time. We had an emergency shipment of Sancerre the other day and it came in in about 10 days, so I don’t see it as a huge problem. People who are using other freight companies because they’re more price-sensitive, maybe, are likely to have slightly more of a problem.
“Anyone who’s got their act together should be able to get it in pretty quickly.
“We sell out every year. I only make a certain quantity, I have to say. It’s decent wine. We sell it throughout wholesale and retail and on our website. We’re already getting enquiries for it.”