Sales of France’s famous Bordeaux wines fell sharply last year, winemakers said, blaming a poor harvest in 2013 and rapidly slowing demand in China, its main export market.

A total of 685 million bottles of Bordeaux wine were sold in 2014 – an 8% drop on the previous year, according to the CIVB association of Bordeaux winemakers.

The total value of the wine sold came to €3.74bil (RM15bil), a decline of 13% compared to the 2013, the association added.

“This drop was expected due to the poor harvest in 2013,” said Bernard Farges, head of the CIVB. “We can’t sell wine we haven’t produced.”

Exports, particularly to China and Hong Kong, hammered the overseas sales picture, with declines of 9% in terms of volume and 17% in terms of value.

A crackdown on corruption by China’s new leadership has hit sales of Western luxury goods – including top wines – as lavish gifts were often used to curry favour with officials.

The volume of Bordeaux wine was slashed by a fifth last year in China, for several reasons, according to Farges.

“The Chinese market, which has had an incredible rise since 2005, had to slow down,” said Farges.

He acknowledged that the “anti-corruption policy of the Chinese government” had hit “the most expensive wines” but also pointed to increased competition from New World wines such as Australian and Chilean vintages.

However, there was also a natural deceleration of the market, he stressed.

Several people set themselves up in China as importers of French wine in 2010 but found a slowing market.

“As a consequence the stocks are taking time to run dry,” he said.

Around 300 Chinese importers of French wine have recently gone out of business, said CIVB’s representative in China, Thomas Jullien.

The growth in the Chinese wine market has been exponential – from 2,000 hectolitres in 2000 to 538,000 hectolitres in 2012 when it reached its highest level. – AFP Relaxnews