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The bourgeois war on French wine The young are snubbing the national drink

A self-avowed oenophile. Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A self-avowed oenophile. Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images


February 2, 2023   7 mins

Jean-François has two hectares of vines in our valley in South-West France: his family have been making wine here on this hard limestone soil for more than half a century. And yet, he would like nothing more than to grub up his vineyards. If you ask him why, he looks skywards, and then, with hands as gnarled as his vines, pulls out the lining of his coat-pocket. Vide. Empty.

The nectar of the gods, French wines have a reputation for being cultivated in a sun-kissed vineyard surrounding a honey-stoned chateau, owned by a Hollywood star like Leonardo DiCaprio, or a Gallic aristo whose family escaped the guillotine. Jean-François is neither. And he is not the only vigneron who is struggling. Things are far from rosĂ© for France’s small winemakers, as two hundred militants made clear outside the Prefecture in Bordeaux one Thursday last month. They follow the thousand who protested in the city last December, when vignerons hung a human effigy outside the doors of the Bordeaux Wine Council, to raise awareness for grape-growers at risk of suicide. “Every day there is a suicide in agriculture,” Didier Cousiney, president of the Viti 33 collective informed the crowd.

In the Bordeaux area alone, 500 vignerons are looking in the bottom of the glass and seeing financial ruin. And you can add to these the growers nearing retirement who cannot find buyers for their vineyards. Like Jean-François. In the Medoc, land prices are actually sinking.

Jean-François would like to simply abandon his vines. He cannot, because it is illegal. Abandoned vines are vectors for disease, which can spread to other vineyards. Vines must be either cultivated or grubbed up. But grubbing costs €2,000 per hectare, money Jean-François does not have.

Crisis in the French wine industry affects more than viticulteurs. In France, wine is not merely a drink: it’s a national symbol, the liquid affirmation of l’Art de vivre Ă  la française. If you opened the arteries of Marianne, you would find them coursing with a Bordeaux Appellations d’Origine ContrĂŽlĂ©e, the official certification for wine grown in the geographical region and made with requisite skill. Until 1981, French children were allowed to drink wine in school. So, when the wine industry turns sour, France’s identity suffers a hangover.

As does its income. Wine is France’s second biggest export after aircraft, worth about €15 billion a year according to the FĂ©dĂ©ration des Exportateurs de Vins et Spiritueux de France (FEVS).

What’s going wrong in the vineyards of La Belle France? Jean-François’s eloquent gestures indicate some of the causes. Doubtless French winegrowers have been complaining about the weather since the Gauls planted the first native vines in the fifth century BC. But in the last five years, the weather has lurched from one Biblical extreme to another. We’ve had drought, which did for my own few vines last year; we’ve had flooding; we’ve had hailstorms. A late frost in April 2021 affected 80% of the nation’s vineyards.

Such was the desperation of viticulteurs then that vineyards were heated overnight with candles and paraffin heaters, to keep the frost off the delicate buds of the fruit. The sight of the vineyards of Bordeaux, the sacred centre of the French wine industry, lit by geometrically exact lines of candlelight was magnificent, but the image ultimately came to symbolise the powerlessness of humans in the face of Mother Nature. After le gel historique, there were few climate change deniers in Bordeaux’s vineyards. According to the European Environmental Agency, France is suffering the biggest economic losses caused by climate change of any country in the world. The Hexagon took a hit of €4.2 billion in 2020 due to climate change.

Merlot is the crucial grape variety of the Bordeaux region, making up 60% of the area’s vineyards. It will be the first wine grape to show the impact of climate change. “The flavour of French wines will be more alcoholic, less acidic and less aromatic,” AgnĂšs Destrac-Irvine, of Bordeaux University’s experimental VitAdapt vineyard told Time magazine in 2020. In other words, Bordeaux Merlot as the world knows and drinks it is facing extinction.

Jean-François grows Merlot.

But it is too easy to see the issue as simply one of supply. Since 1998, Italy has often outranked France to be the globe’s number one producer of wine — last year, Italy produced 50.3 million hectolitres, compared to France’s 44.2 million hectolitres — and it is not unknown for France to fall behind Spain in terms of volume. This fall from the gold position in terms of quantity may irk Gallic pride, but France’s real problem is that it cannot shift the stuff it does produce. There is an issue with demand. Take the Bordeaux region: it produces about 480 million cases a year, yet sells only 440 million cases, and much of that is flogged off at knock-down, bargain-basement price.

Why won’t it sell? This state of affairs is largely home-grown because — sacrĂ© bleu! — the French are drinking less wine (with the exception of champagne), and exports are insufficient to cover the gap. In the Fifties, the average French adult drank 150 litres of wine per year, about half a bottle a day. Wine, especially red wine, was the beverage of choice for lunch and dinner. Industrial workers would have a “rouge” in the bar tabac before clocking on at the factory, and farm workers a few sips throughout the day to keep warm in the fields.

But according to a report published by the Kantar Institut last year, the French have reduced their consumption of red wine by 32% since 2011 alone. Wine consumption per person in France is now dipping below 40 litres per year, and some 38% of the French never drink wine at all. In fact, France is one of the fastest-growing markets in the global boom in alcohol-free drinks.

The reasons are numerous, but generational difference is key. Among retirees, wine consumption is barely changed: people in their sixties and seventies grew up with wine on the table at every meal. For them, wine remains part of France’s patrimoine, or cultural heritage. But they are, in the way of all flesh, dying off. And, some argue, failing to induce wine appreciation in the young. Those between 18 and 35, meanwhile, are more likely to be drinking water at the table, and beer at the bar (beer accounted for 39% of the expenditure on alcohol among French people aged under 35 in 2021. Wine just 27%.)

Denis Saverot, editor of La Revue des Vins de France magazine, blames “our bourgeois, technocratic elite with their campaigns against drink-driving and alcoholism, lumping wine in with every other type of alcohol, even though it should be regarded as totally different”. French TV and cinema is currently running a government message not to toast health — “Sante!” — with alcohol since alcohol is unhealthy. (“La bonne santĂ© n’a rien Ă  voir avec l’alcool”.) Official messaging is working: according to a poll by the Ifop institute, 27% of French people intended to participate in Dry January this year, although you’d be hard-pressed to find one of them in a French winegrowing region. Nicolas Carreau, president of the Blaye CĂŽtes de Bordeaux appellation, told regional daily Sud-Ouest, “we are for limits and reasonable consumption”, but “Dry January contributes to smashing our culture”.

But looking at the sorry state of the industry, an older French wine-lover might experience déja vu. Because the sector has been in crisis since the Sixties, what with the decline in drinking and the rise in New World wines. What saved French wine last time was China.

Pouring into the market for Bordeaux after the 2008 global financial crisis, Chinese consumers soaked up the flood of plonk that no one else wanted. But no longer. French wine shipments to China dropped by nearly 30% in 2022, a shift led from by the elite: the CCP, as part of its anti-corruption drive, has instituted rules on the amount that can be spent on alcohol at state functions.

And it’s not just wine they’ve stop buying. For the decade after 2011, the Chinese were the top foreign investors in Bordeaux vineyards, buying around 170 chateaus. Now they are only conspicuous by their absence, following capital controls by Beijing intended to keep domestic currency within China’s borders, and sustain the yuan. (The failure of Chinese managers to understand the French worker’s absolute commitment to a max 35-hour week did little for harmony in the vineyards.) Symbolically, the gates of the Chateau de Grand Branet, owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Haichang Group, are locked with a rusty chain.

Other major markets for French wine are also turning up their noses at the stuff. The UK has been successfully wooed by the cheap, easy-drinking wines of Australia, South Africa, Chile and Argentina. More to the point, British wine is booming. And the French — incroyable! — are investing in it. Henkell Freixenet, Pommery and Tattinger have all bought vineyards in southern England. America, meanwhile, has implemented tariffs and discovered it has no taste for the bottom half of Bordeaux’s production barrel, although it remains an outlet for “fine wines”.

But for how long? To offset the decline in domestic consumption, French winemakers niftily moved upmarket during the 2010s, selling expensive wine abroad — the Saint-Emilions, the Margaux, the premiere cuvĂ©es. This shiny wine bubble, which diverted attention from the structural problems in the industry, has now burst, courtesy of inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. Winemakers’ hopes of forever increasing the price on the label have a firm cork in them.

The French wine industry may be over a barrel, but it is not dead yet. Some winegrowers are shifting wholesale to eco-friendliness. By 2025, 100% of winemakers in Bordeaux will have some form of organic or sustainable certification, or be transitioning towards getting one. This is a good bet, since the data on French wine consumption when mined suggests that remaining drinkers are looking to buy better wine, and are more “engaged” with their choice.

Meanwhile, the bigger chateaux have already diversified into wine tourism —which, pre-pandemic, was welcoming more than 24 million enthusiasts every year. Certain destinations are enhancing the experience with some of the most expensive art installations in Europe: Provence’s Chñteau La Coste has pieces by Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, plus a “railcar” sculpture by Bob Dylan. (Yes, that Bob Dylan.)

All well and good, but no salvation for small wine producers like Jean-François in the here and now. They are calling on the French government to subsidise the pulling-up of vines in Bordeaux’s less prestigious areas to the tune of €10,000 per hectare, with about 10,000 hectares going to the digger. Officially, member states of the European Union are prevented from releasing funds for grubbing-up, but never underestimate the French ability to fudge and evade the rules. (The European Commission once memorably allowed France leeway on its budget “because it is France”).

The vignerons also have expectations of President Macron, a celebrated, self-avowed oenophile who drinks two glasses of wine a day, one with lunch and one with dinner. The Revue du Vin de France named President Macron “personality of the year” in 2022. He picked up his award in person, telling the audience: “You are the masters of an art which allows us to shine around the world.”

While my neighbour Jean-François waits for the politicians, he continues to prune his vines under the grey skies of Southwest France. He is gritting his teeth, preparing for another year of financial loss. Another bitter harvest.


John Lewis-Stempel is a farmer and writer on nature and history. His most recent books are The Sheep’s Tale and Nightwalking.

JLewisStempel

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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

The war on terroir?

Philip May
Philip May
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

First laugh of the day! Thanks

Philip May
Philip May
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

First laugh of the day! Thanks

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

The war on terroir?

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

In 2022, after severe Spring weather attributed to climate change, the Ministry of Agriculture’s statistics agency, Agreste, estimated that production of wine would plunge 29% to about 33m hectolitres. It was much reported, so much so it has become the narrative.

Actual output at the end of 2022? 44m hectolitres. Almost all of the year on year fall is attributable to an acceleration in grubbing in 2021/22 and more wine being turned into industrial alcohol. Per hectare, French grape output is steady.

French farming decline is pinned on climate change and the claim made that it is the worst affected in the world for three simple reasons: to win more subsidies, to avoid addressing structural economic problems, and ignore the fact that France is becoming less French.

On that last point, the author points to “demographic” change for the increase in teetotalism in the last decade. It isn’t a change in average age, dependency ratios, life expectancy, family structures or birth rates. We can be much more specific. It is ethnic change, and with that a different culture. This is fundamental to understanding trends and planning French alcohol production over the next 30 years.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

In 2022, after severe Spring weather attributed to climate change, the Ministry of Agriculture’s statistics agency, Agreste, estimated that production of wine would plunge 29% to about 33m hectolitres. It was much reported, so much so it has become the narrative.

Actual output at the end of 2022? 44m hectolitres. Almost all of the year on year fall is attributable to an acceleration in grubbing in 2021/22 and more wine being turned into industrial alcohol. Per hectare, French grape output is steady.

French farming decline is pinned on climate change and the claim made that it is the worst affected in the world for three simple reasons: to win more subsidies, to avoid addressing structural economic problems, and ignore the fact that France is becoming less French.

On that last point, the author points to “demographic” change for the increase in teetotalism in the last decade. It isn’t a change in average age, dependency ratios, life expectancy, family structures or birth rates. We can be much more specific. It is ethnic change, and with that a different culture. This is fundamental to understanding trends and planning French alcohol production over the next 30 years.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
1 year ago

In what world is a late frost evidence of “climate change”?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Reardon

But it’s not just one late frost, it’s a whole raft of unusual weather events that is the problem.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

There are many cycles in climate, everything from yearly, 11 year, 250 years , 2K events, 4.2k events,Ice Ages with 10-15,000 warm periods and 100k+ cold periods, the Pleistocene itself( 2.6 M), cooling since late Cretaceous. What is ignored is that the change from fairly steady to warming( 1936 Desert Bowl in USA) or cooling can be very sudden over a few years. Over the last 18K years the Sahara has gone from grassland to desert to grassland to desert. At 7.9K years ago temperatures were 3.5 C warmer than today.5.9k years ago the drying of the Sahara caused human migration to Nile.
The Mini Ice age of about 1650- 1850 can be seen with all the Dutch pictures of people skating in winter.
The basis of life are plants and they like it warm, humid and high CO2. High CO2 promotes deeper roots which protects plant against drought. In early Cretaceous the CO2 was about 6-7 times higher than today. Satellite images over the last 40 years show greening of sub Saharan Africa.
Where a country is at the meeting point of say warm wet south westerly winds and cold dry northern to north easterly, there are will always be abrupt changes in weather, especially if we are entering a normal cold or dry period.
Over population of a land with little fertile soil impacted on Greece from 600BC and Ibn Khaldun wrote in 1400 how the lack of arab maintenance of irrigation systems led to desertification.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Time to go back to school.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

That’s OK then, I must put my head back in the sand.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Time to go back to school.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

That’s OK then, I must put my head back in the sand.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

There have always been “unusual weather events”. When the Rhine almost went dry recently, a rock inscription was exposed that memorized a similar event 700 or so years ago.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wim de Vriend
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

Wasn’t that the Elbe (much further east) ?

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

Wasn’t that the Elbe (much further east) ?

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

There are many cycles in climate, everything from yearly, 11 year, 250 years , 2K events, 4.2k events,Ice Ages with 10-15,000 warm periods and 100k+ cold periods, the Pleistocene itself( 2.6 M), cooling since late Cretaceous. What is ignored is that the change from fairly steady to warming( 1936 Desert Bowl in USA) or cooling can be very sudden over a few years. Over the last 18K years the Sahara has gone from grassland to desert to grassland to desert. At 7.9K years ago temperatures were 3.5 C warmer than today.5.9k years ago the drying of the Sahara caused human migration to Nile.
The Mini Ice age of about 1650- 1850 can be seen with all the Dutch pictures of people skating in winter.
The basis of life are plants and they like it warm, humid and high CO2. High CO2 promotes deeper roots which protects plant against drought. In early Cretaceous the CO2 was about 6-7 times higher than today. Satellite images over the last 40 years show greening of sub Saharan Africa.
Where a country is at the meeting point of say warm wet south westerly winds and cold dry northern to north easterly, there are will always be abrupt changes in weather, especially if we are entering a normal cold or dry period.
Over population of a land with little fertile soil impacted on Greece from 600BC and Ibn Khaldun wrote in 1400 how the lack of arab maintenance of irrigation systems led to desertification.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

There have always been “unusual weather events”. When the Rhine almost went dry recently, a rock inscription was exposed that memorized a similar event 700 or so years ago.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wim de Vriend
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Reardon

But it’s not just one late frost, it’s a whole raft of unusual weather events that is the problem.

Tony Reardon
Tony Reardon
1 year ago

In what world is a late frost evidence of “climate change”?

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

I’m still a fan of French wine; I find most New World red wines to be overly heavy and often with too high alchohol content; and, generally, the French whites are less acidic and are more aromatic. Of course, it does vary with the year and the vine-yard, but overall I still think that French is one of the best, so it is concerning what was said the article about the flavour and acidity changing. Having said all this, we have a vine-yard not far from us in Hampshire which produces excellent wine, although it is still at the upper end of our budget,. and this we do drink.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 year ago

Hear! hear! I agree. Too many New World wines lack subtlety / finesse and are far too alcoholic. Some British wine is good…but just too pricey for every day drinking.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago

It depends on what you buy. A lot of new world wine is made for mass consumption, but there are exceptions like the Great Pinot noirs of New Zealand.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 year ago

Hear! hear! I agree. Too many New World wines lack subtlety / finesse and are far too alcoholic. Some British wine is good…but just too pricey for every day drinking.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago

It depends on what you buy. A lot of new world wine is made for mass consumption, but there are exceptions like the Great Pinot noirs of New Zealand.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

I’m still a fan of French wine; I find most New World red wines to be overly heavy and often with too high alchohol content; and, generally, the French whites are less acidic and are more aromatic. Of course, it does vary with the year and the vine-yard, but overall I still think that French is one of the best, so it is concerning what was said the article about the flavour and acidity changing. Having said all this, we have a vine-yard not far from us in Hampshire which produces excellent wine, although it is still at the upper end of our budget,. and this we do drink.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

So what’s the issue? Climate change or reduced domestic consumption?

“By 2025, 100% of winemakers in Bordeaux will have some form of organic or sustainable certification, or be transitioning towards getting one.”

If anyone thinks this is the answer, the industry is in big trouble IMO. If you can’t maintain an industry on the value of the product itself, I don’t think slapping it with an organic label will help.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

As a rule, I don’t buy products labelled organic. I prefer to support businesses making good products rather than catering to the woke.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

I don’t buy organic either, unless it’s cheaper than traditional products, which rarely happens. It seems to me though that wine is particularly unsuited to organic labels. It’s not like vegetable oil or carrots. IMO consumers buy either for taste or price. Organic wouldn’t satisfy either of those criteria.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Bryan Dale

I don’t buy organic either, unless it’s cheaper than traditional products, which rarely happens. It seems to me though that wine is particularly unsuited to organic labels. It’s not like vegetable oil or carrots. IMO consumers buy either for taste or price. Organic wouldn’t satisfy either of those criteria.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It all depends how many converts the “organic” cult can gain.

dave dobbin
dave dobbin
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

A key ingredient of a hangovers are sulphites, added to preserve. Show the winemakers skill by not adding them and have another glass. Why add chemicals when the grape provides all that is needed

Last edited 1 year ago by dave dobbin
dave dobbin
dave dobbin
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

A key ingredient of a hangovers are sulphites, added to preserve. Show the winemakers skill by not adding them and have another glass. Why add chemicals when the grape provides all that is needed

Last edited 1 year ago by dave dobbin
Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

As a rule, I don’t buy products labelled organic. I prefer to support businesses making good products rather than catering to the woke.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It all depends how many converts the “organic” cult can gain.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

So what’s the issue? Climate change or reduced domestic consumption?

“By 2025, 100% of winemakers in Bordeaux will have some form of organic or sustainable certification, or be transitioning towards getting one.”

If anyone thinks this is the answer, the industry is in big trouble IMO. If you can’t maintain an industry on the value of the product itself, I don’t think slapping it with an organic label will help.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I stopped buying French wine a long time ago, finding it over-priced and over-rated compared not only to New World wines but Italian too. A matter of taste, no doubt, but are those who’ve turned their back on French wine meant to go along with the snobbery and the “wine lake” which we subsidised for decades?

That the average Frenchman used to consume 150 litres a year is beyond parody, but it does help explain French philosophy. We’re still suffering from the hangover.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

That the average Frenchman used to consume 150 litres a year is beyond parody, but it does help explain French philosophy.
Very good point.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I was told years ago by Master of Wine that Southern French Wines offer some of the best value for money on the market and I tend to agree. Quality has greatly improved. Bordeaux and Burgundy produce excellent wines but are very expensive and below ÂŁ20 a bottle one can buy better elsewhere. One supermarket has good offers and at times one can obtain discount of 25% if one buys six or more bottle which brings cost down to ÂŁ5.25 for a good southern French wine.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Totally agree. French wine and indeed food is wildly overrated, I always considered it a masterpiece of delusion how it was apparently the best.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I shall agree with you with on some points, but not all. It’s quite easy to ignore the snobbery: just ignore it.
As for overpriced, may I disagree? France is a large country, with many different wine producing regions. There’s plenty of reasonably priced, good drinking to be had; especially if, like me, the upper echelons of Bordeaux Cru Classe (or indeed anything drinkable from Burgundy) require you to flog the car or remortgage the house to buy a case. Indeed, Auberon Waugh laments how even a well-off man such as himself was unwilling to pay the price of ‘great wine’, due to speculative inflation, in Waugh on Wine. Perhaps the rather restrictive constraints of the AOC system come into play here. Plenty of very good wine can be found (not just in France) by exploring the declassified offerings or the less fashionable regions.
Italy? A different beast entirely and with as much snobbery attached; but many a great find to be had. My own preference with ‘old world’ plonk is to look to Portugal, Spain and the emerging wine-makers in Eastern Europe. I remain to be convinced overall with regard to the ‘New World’, but have found may enjoyable (and reasonably priced) bottles
Wine lake? A decades old joke – the farmers need to plant something else. Overproduction is nothing new.
As for the author’s note that the French youth prefer a beer to a glass of wine, my only thought is towards the UK’s own CAMRA. French beer (apart from from concoctions such as the wonderful BiĂšre de Garde) is uniformly bland, yellow p!sswater (see also Italy and Spain). Surely time for an advocacy organisation to wean the youth off their industrially produced cooking lager and back to their own national drink? So, I used Googletranslate (my schooldays French long lost) and Society for the Preservation of French Wine, might be SociĂ©tĂ© pour la PrĂ©servation des Vins de France. After a little digging around, I can find no such equivalent organisation.
French philosophy? No excusing it!
Now, time for a drink.

Last edited 1 year ago by Alphonse Pfarti
Kevin Alewine
Kevin Alewine
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I will politely disagree regarding prices. At my normal price point of 25-35 USD, California wines don’t compare well. 2X that for comparable quality. Of course Italy and Spain have great regional wines at that price as do Oregon/Washington and Argentina, but if you prefer the merlot/cab blends as I do, Bordeaux is still the go-to region.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

That the average Frenchman used to consume 150 litres a year is beyond parody, but it does help explain French philosophy.
Very good point.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I was told years ago by Master of Wine that Southern French Wines offer some of the best value for money on the market and I tend to agree. Quality has greatly improved. Bordeaux and Burgundy produce excellent wines but are very expensive and below ÂŁ20 a bottle one can buy better elsewhere. One supermarket has good offers and at times one can obtain discount of 25% if one buys six or more bottle which brings cost down to ÂŁ5.25 for a good southern French wine.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Totally agree. French wine and indeed food is wildly overrated, I always considered it a masterpiece of delusion how it was apparently the best.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I shall agree with you with on some points, but not all. It’s quite easy to ignore the snobbery: just ignore it.
As for overpriced, may I disagree? France is a large country, with many different wine producing regions. There’s plenty of reasonably priced, good drinking to be had; especially if, like me, the upper echelons of Bordeaux Cru Classe (or indeed anything drinkable from Burgundy) require you to flog the car or remortgage the house to buy a case. Indeed, Auberon Waugh laments how even a well-off man such as himself was unwilling to pay the price of ‘great wine’, due to speculative inflation, in Waugh on Wine. Perhaps the rather restrictive constraints of the AOC system come into play here. Plenty of very good wine can be found (not just in France) by exploring the declassified offerings or the less fashionable regions.
Italy? A different beast entirely and with as much snobbery attached; but many a great find to be had. My own preference with ‘old world’ plonk is to look to Portugal, Spain and the emerging wine-makers in Eastern Europe. I remain to be convinced overall with regard to the ‘New World’, but have found may enjoyable (and reasonably priced) bottles
Wine lake? A decades old joke – the farmers need to plant something else. Overproduction is nothing new.
As for the author’s note that the French youth prefer a beer to a glass of wine, my only thought is towards the UK’s own CAMRA. French beer (apart from from concoctions such as the wonderful BiĂšre de Garde) is uniformly bland, yellow p!sswater (see also Italy and Spain). Surely time for an advocacy organisation to wean the youth off their industrially produced cooking lager and back to their own national drink? So, I used Googletranslate (my schooldays French long lost) and Society for the Preservation of French Wine, might be SociĂ©tĂ© pour la PrĂ©servation des Vins de France. After a little digging around, I can find no such equivalent organisation.
French philosophy? No excusing it!
Now, time for a drink.

Last edited 1 year ago by Alphonse Pfarti
Kevin Alewine
Kevin Alewine
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I will politely disagree regarding prices. At my normal price point of 25-35 USD, California wines don’t compare well. 2X that for comparable quality. Of course Italy and Spain have great regional wines at that price as do Oregon/Washington and Argentina, but if you prefer the merlot/cab blends as I do, Bordeaux is still the go-to region.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I stopped buying French wine a long time ago, finding it over-priced and over-rated compared not only to New World wines but Italian too. A matter of taste, no doubt, but are those who’ve turned their back on French wine meant to go along with the snobbery and the “wine lake” which we subsidised for decades?

That the average Frenchman used to consume 150 litres a year is beyond parody, but it does help explain French philosophy. We’re still suffering from the hangover.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
1 year ago

As a regular wine drinker, I would say that the main problem with French wines is not delivering value-for-money. Apart from the top wines, most French wines, in general, are not considered high quality compared to what is available from other parts of the world at the same price.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
1 year ago

As a regular wine drinker, I would say that the main problem with French wines is not delivering value-for-money. Apart from the top wines, most French wines, in general, are not considered high quality compared to what is available from other parts of the world at the same price.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago

Odd to omit all consideration of demographic collapse, and the grand remplacement of the Gallic population by ostensibly teetotal muslims.

Kevin Alewine
Kevin Alewine
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Exactly. If the French don’t have kids, who will drink the wine?

dave dobbin
dave dobbin
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

French population has grown from 45m in 1960 to 65m now. Still plenty of potential Gallic drinkers i suspect

Kevin Alewine
Kevin Alewine
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Exactly. If the French don’t have kids, who will drink the wine?

dave dobbin
dave dobbin
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

French population has grown from 45m in 1960 to 65m now. Still plenty of potential Gallic drinkers i suspect

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago

Odd to omit all consideration of demographic collapse, and the grand remplacement of the Gallic population by ostensibly teetotal muslims.

Al N
Al N
1 year ago

Happily not missing French wine or any French products since 2016.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Al N

Just remember that we used to own Bordeaux and you’ll be able to keep drinking it with a cleaner conscience. Some things are more important than Brexit !

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Al N

Just remember that we used to own Bordeaux and you’ll be able to keep drinking it with a cleaner conscience. Some things are more important than Brexit !

Al N
Al N
1 year ago

Happily not missing French wine or any French products since 2016.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

How terrible. Oh well. I buy English wines like Chapel Down these days instead.

Andy Martin
Andy Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Yes how terrible. Oh well. I buy English wines like Buckfast,a ‘tonic’ wine ( apparently made by monks and drunk by drunks) instead.

Andy Martin
Andy Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  R Wright

Yes how terrible. Oh well. I buy English wines like Buckfast,a ‘tonic’ wine ( apparently made by monks and drunk by drunks) instead.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

How terrible. Oh well. I buy English wines like Chapel Down these days instead.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Interesting that grubbing up costs €2,000 per hectare, but the farmers are seeking to be subsidised by €10,000!

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Interesting that grubbing up costs €2,000 per hectare, but the farmers are seeking to be subsidised by €10,000!

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

I’m confused. First we learn that “grubbing costs €2,000 per hectare, money Jean-François does not have”, which seems hard to believe; an initial expense of €4,000 would buy him two hectares for growing more profitable crops, or sell. But then we are informed that the cost of “pulling-up of vines in Bordeaux’s less prestigious areas [costs] €10,000 per hectare.” So which is it?
But maybe the author’s apparent failure to proof-read his piece reveals his real priority, which is to spread the gospel of Global Warming, or Climate Change, whichever fits the weather-anxieties of the day.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wim de Vriend
Richard Bolton
Richard Bolton
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

I think it would be 2k in grubbing costs for him to carry it out but wants 10k from the French government. I suppose it will come out of the CAP that has kept French farmers going for the past 5 decades

Richard Bolton
Richard Bolton
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

I think it would be 2k in grubbing costs for him to carry it out but wants 10k from the French government. I suppose it will come out of the CAP that has kept French farmers going for the past 5 decades

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

I’m confused. First we learn that “grubbing costs €2,000 per hectare, money Jean-François does not have”, which seems hard to believe; an initial expense of €4,000 would buy him two hectares for growing more profitable crops, or sell. But then we are informed that the cost of “pulling-up of vines in Bordeaux’s less prestigious areas [costs] €10,000 per hectare.” So which is it?
But maybe the author’s apparent failure to proof-read his piece reveals his real priority, which is to spread the gospel of Global Warming, or Climate Change, whichever fits the weather-anxieties of the day.

Last edited 1 year ago by Wim de Vriend
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

This is a subject for lying down and avoiding (with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone preferably).

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I’d sit upright to drink it. An headline such as “Man chokes to death on bottle of Cotes du Rhone” might just spell the end for that region.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I’d sit upright to drink it. An headline such as “Man chokes to death on bottle of Cotes du Rhone” might just spell the end for that region.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

This is a subject for lying down and avoiding (with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone preferably).

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

“ The vignerons also have expectations of President Macron, a celebrated, self-avowed oenophile who drinks two glasses of wine a day, one with lunch and one with dinner.”

Correction: whatever their expectations of Macron may or may not be, they would be of a politician someone who once *claimed*, during an election campaign, in a conversation with a wine industry media outlet, to drink two glasses of wine a day.

https://www.winespectator.com/articles/emmanuel-macron-french-president-candidate-blind-tasting-unfiltered

Come on Unherd, you can do better than this.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

“ The vignerons also have expectations of President Macron, a celebrated, self-avowed oenophile who drinks two glasses of wine a day, one with lunch and one with dinner.”

Correction: whatever their expectations of Macron may or may not be, they would be of a politician someone who once *claimed*, during an election campaign, in a conversation with a wine industry media outlet, to drink two glasses of wine a day.

https://www.winespectator.com/articles/emmanuel-macron-french-president-candidate-blind-tasting-unfiltered

Come on Unherd, you can do better than this.

0 0
0 0
1 year ago

We stopped drinking French wines a number of years ago for a simple reason – they aren’t very good anymore. Why should I pay several hundred dollars a bottle for a first growth Bordeaux when I can buy an equally good bottle of Spanish or Italian wine for substantially less?

0 0
0 0
1 year ago

We stopped drinking French wines a number of years ago for a simple reason – they aren’t very good anymore. Why should I pay several hundred dollars a bottle for a first growth Bordeaux when I can buy an equally good bottle of Spanish or Italian wine for substantially less?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

I am reading this as I am about to board a plane from Nice to Bordeaux, and what a tedious and dull place it is. Given that the bourgeois not least the petit bourgeois run everything in nu britn, what is the surprise?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

I am reading this as I am about to board a plane from Nice to Bordeaux, and what a tedious and dull place it is. Given that the bourgeois not least the petit bourgeois run everything in nu britn, what is the surprise?

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago

I’m sure the solution is government subsidies all around, no? I mean, “because it is France”, of courseb.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago

I’m sure the solution is government subsidies all around, no? I mean, “because it is France”, of courseb.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago

I stopped reading when the climate change scam was invoked.

Bryan Dale
Bryan Dale
1 year ago

I stopped reading when the climate change scam was invoked.

Bernard Bulaitis
Bernard Bulaitis
1 year ago

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Bernard Bee
Bernard Bee
1 year ago

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Bernard Bee
Bernard Bee
1 year ago

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Bernard Bulaitis
Bernard Bulaitis
1 year ago

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