The beautiful areas of Bordeaux and Languedoc, famous for their great wines, are dealing with a combination of tough challenges that are causing big problems for the local wine industry. As fewer people want to buy French wines and there are more companies competing, along with the ongoing issues from the pandemic, the French government is giving a lot of money, $215 million, to help. This money is meant to help wine makers by helping them sell extra wine they have and also by helping grape-growers reduce the size of their vineyards.
Marc Fesneau, who is in charge of agriculture in France, said it’s really important to do something quickly to stop the prices from dropping too much and to help wine makers make money again. They’re expecting to have too much wine, about 400 million bottles worth, this year, so the government is taking steps to balance things out.
The money will help wine producers turn their extra wine into pure alcohol using a process called distillation. This pure alcohol can then be used in different industries, like making hand sanitizer and perfume, even though they might not make much money from it. This idea isn’t new because France has had too much wine before, and that caused the prices to go down a lot, even up to 20%. According to wine expert Elizabeth Carter, this issue of having too much wine has been a problem for a while, and controlling how much wine is made should help keep the prices stable.
The problems in Bordeaux and Languedoc go beyond having too much wine. Less people are buying red wine, which is hurting the well-known full-bodied red wines and red blends from these regions. More young people are choosing other drinks like rosé, beer, and drinks without alcohol, and that’s changing what people want to buy.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many places where people usually go to buy and sell wine, like restaurants and trade shows, were closed, and that made things even harder for wine makers. And the climate crisis is causing issues too, as the weather gets warmer, which affects grape harvests.
Other issues affecting the wine industry include the higher prices for things like fuel and food due to a situation involving Russia and Ukraine. This has led people in Europe to spend less money on things like wine that they don’t really need. This year, the consumption of wine has gone down by 10% in Spain, 22% in Germany, and 34% in Portugal because of these money problems.
Adding to all these challenges is the fact that fewer and fewer areas in France are being used to grow grapes for wine. To deal with this, the French government is giving money to grape growers who get rid of their extra grapevines. In Bordeaux, they’re planning to remove grapevines from almost 23,500 acres of land this year.
Jean-Philippe Granier from the Languedoc wine producers’ association put it simply when he said, “We’re making too much wine, and the price we’re selling it for is lower than what it costs us to make it, so we’re losing money.”
France has a deep connection to its wine industry, which has been part of its culture for more than 2,000 years. There have been rules in place since the 1930s to make sure French wine is good quality, and they make all kinds of wine like reds, whites, rosés, sparklings, and champagnes. The French wine market is worth about $15.6 billion, and last year, they made about $18.5 billion from selling wine and spirits.
It’s interesting to note that in 2020, only 5.6 liters of alcoholic drinks were sold per person in France, which is a lot less than the 20 liters sold per person back in 1961.
France isn’t the only place facing these problems. Australia’s wine industry had a hard time too, with lots of extra wine left over in 2020 because of tariffs imposed by China. Australia’s wine exports went down a lot, and it might take years for things to get better. Even in the United States, fewer grapes are being grown because of climate change, which is making harvests smaller. This means that wineries there don’t have too much extra wine to sell at low prices if people stop buying wine.