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Bordeaux has 10,000 wine producers, 53 co-operatives, 130 brokers and 400 négociants. It is estimated that one person in six of the Gironde's working population is involved in the trade. Not all wine producers own châteaux, of which there are approximately 5,000 across all the regions of Bordeaux. Through its reliance on courtiers and négociants (known generically as "la place"), its way of working is unique in the wine business.
Producers account for an average of 850 million bottles each year. Of these 60% make wines on their own properties (75% of all wine produced). The balance is processed and marketed by the region's co-operatives.
Co-operatives work in an essentially technical capacity for their members, offering vinification, blending and packaging facilities.
The rôle of the broker ("courtier") is to work as an intermediary between the producers and the négociants, matching supply and demand, advising and conciliating between the two parties. Brokers work as guarantors to the supply contracts and monitor the quality of the wine through its period of maturation, ensuring that the finished product corresponds to the buying samples. They are paid by commission ("courtage"), normally set at 2% and paid by the buyer.
A négociant is a merchant house, selling wines made at estates or commercial brands. The latter is sourced from producers or co-operatives, usually as wine, and matured by the négociant before blending, bottling and sale. One that undertakes that process is known as a "négociant-éléveur". Although there are almost 400 registered négociants, nearly 90% of the profession's business is accounted for by about 25 firms. The sector is responsible for selling 75% of all Bordeaux's production to more than 160 different countries.