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09.19.2005

Why France Is In Trouble

Well, there are lots of reasons that the French wine industry is headed for (already met with?) disaster, but recent news has highlighted a few brutal new realities. Just a couple of days ago, the French National Interprofessional Wine Office released a study showing that in the last 5 years France has lost 1,000,000 wine drinkers to beer and other spirits, and that per capita, wine consumption has dropped a full 50% in the last forty years. These are truly dire numbers, that combined with over-production, militant-terrorist winemakers, and waning global demand for the higher priced wines make me want to short sell the whole country (if that were possible).

Then if you want even more imminent visions of a pending wine apocalypse, you might listen to Bernard Magrez, the bazillionaire owner of thirty-some odd wine properties around the world who is convinced that the winemakers of the new world are going to put the final nail in the coffin of the old guard of France when they figure out that global tastes of aging populations are going to swing towards less fruity, more refined wines. It's only a matter of time, he says, and when the new world winemakers get on that train, everyone will be doing their shopping in California, and the older chateaux of France will finally die out. Dire predictions, to be sure, but it's not a scenario that is entirely farfetched.

Why don't we all go out and buy a bottle of our favorite French wine and savor it for whatever the future holds.

Comments (10)

Terry Hughes wrote:
09.20.05 at 3:19 AM

But if ageing populations want more refined, less fruity wines,wouldn't that bode ill for Australia and California? And wouldn't France be in relatively better shape?

Noah wrote:
09.20.05 at 7:10 AM

Just read this on Wine Spectator from an interview with diplomat William McIlhenny, US general counsel in Florence. Thought it relevant to the discussion

".... It is interesting that some people think that globalization is a force that standardizes and homogenizes, that covers up tradition. But in the case of wine, it may be just the opposite, because it has helped create an interest and an economic base in wine, and it has revived so many of these ancient varieties in Italy. There are so many people here in Italy with incredible passion who are pursuing that.

WS: So you don't buy into the idea that anyone planting Cabernet or Chardonnay in Italy is just making another global wine that has no local character?
WM: I think the reality is much more nuanced. The fact that there are big producers making a good quality standard product for an international market also leaves room for others. This activity creates an economic base for tremendous experimentation and revival of all the varieties in Italy. There is tremendous synergy. The two are not a zero-sum game at all.

Italy might be one of the best examples where you have international wines and, at the same time, wines made from indigenous varieties. Sometimes they are even blended together—Cabernet with Aglianico or Merlot with Sangiovese. So Italians aren't tied down to tradition. There is a graceful choreography in there somewhere, and they are not afraid to try new things and to make them work."

Mike wrote:
09.20.05 at 9:05 AM

Sorry, but my science teacher advised us that as one ages your taste buds revert back to "sweet youth." Personally, I'm finding a "fruiter" wine is becoming more agreeable. Every vinter I speak to says "dry for awards, sweet for sales."

djb wrote:
09.20.05 at 11:51 AM

Millitant terrorist winemakers? Wow strong words. I didn't know winmaking harmed so many innocent civilians. Do you have any winemakers in mind that you think are milllitant terrorists? Or did you mean millitant terroirist and just spell in wrong.

Mithrandir wrote:
09.20.05 at 1:49 PM

Fermentations covered the militant terrorist winemakers not long ago.

Lance wrote:
09.21.05 at 6:28 AM

I don't know about going back to the older more 'refined wines'.The new,spicier menus go very well with the over the top(15%+ alcohol content)wines like Outpost,T-Vine or Lakoya that are almost impossible to get.

Ben wrote:
09.21.05 at 9:16 PM

New spicier menus?

I do most of my wine drinking with the food I cook.

Cédric wrote:
09.22.05 at 1:00 AM

I am export commercial based in the south of France selling exclusively Languedoc Wines on the export market. And I can say that the trend and general taste of youth are going towards the "sugar" taste. Even if a wine is fruit driven but not have this little addition of sugar on the finish young taster right say it is not fruity!!! Unfortunatly, the trend will turn winemakers to make "industrial" wines with the same sweet profile...

Alder wrote:
09.22.05 at 2:39 PM

Lance,

In my opinion, wines with higher alcohol don't go so well with spicy foods as the alcohol tends to be accentuated by the spices. But regardless, the most important thing is finding what you like to drink! I happen to really enjoy all three of the wines you mentioned.

seb wrote:
09.22.05 at 8:39 PM

Magrez is just another doomsayers and barely make sense.

If Parker likes his wines, there is no way he is going for finesse. Some Australian wines have finesse but you need cool terroirs and delicate winemaking.

Don't you think it's easier to over extract and use toasted oaks to get high Parker rating. Phase one is easy, phase two is crazy.

By the way, Mr Magrez wants to buy a first or a second growth in Bordeaux. Does he really need it if he can produce finesse in the New World.
Just a thought...

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