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07.13.2011

Being Proud of Your Country's Wine Doesn't Mean Anything if You Don't Drink It

Thumbnail image for 800px-Flag_of_France.pngThere are a few things you can count on no matter where you are in history. One of them is the fact that children, in general, try very hard not to grow up to become their parents. The constant rejection of what the generation before liked, stood for, and lived for has propelled many a consumer trend over the last century.

Sadly, it seems that while in America, this phenomenon is partly responsible for the current and coming surge in wine consumption, in France it may be just the opposite.

It has been widely reported over the past weeks that over the course of the last two generations, France's annual consumption of wine as a nation has dropped by three billion bottles per year, to its current rate of four billion.

On the one hand, even at this lower number the average French citizen still drinks WAY more wine per capita than the average American. But on the other hand, a 40% drop in consumption is a staggering collapse in demand. While this collapse can't be entirely attributed to generational demographic effects (the rise of a powerful and puritanical anti-alcohol movement in France isn't exactly helping either), it is clear that not only are France's younger drinkers drinking less wine, they're drinking less, period.

The news story suggests that France's younger generation remains proud of France's wine culture and heritage. But that doesn't mean anything if they're not drinking it.

While I and the rest of my compatriots are no doubt doing our share to try to drink up a lot of French wine, we're not really drinking the wine that needs to sell (the wine that usually makes up 90+% of any country's wine industry: the cheapest stuff).

Is it possible for the bottom to fall out of the French wine market without the premium end of the spectrum being affected? I don't know enough about the industry or market economics to say, but in my limited understanding of how things work, that seems fairly unlikely.

In any case, watching even a portion of the French wine industry die a slow death of starvation isn't a pleasant thing to watch, even with a glass of French wine in hand.

C'mon everyone. Drink up!

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