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Forget the Fiscal Cliff. What About the French Wine Cliff?

As American politics becomes consumed with the power play that everyone is calling the fiscal cliff, a far more dire and permanent disaster is looming for wine lovers everywhere. I'm speaking, of course, of the impending French Wine Cliff.

Doubtless you've heard of the five-decades-long decline in per-capita consumption of wine by the French people. Well it has just hit a new low.

As soft drinks, mixed drinks, and yes, even fruit juice has taken a larger role on the French table at mealtimes, French wine consumption has dropped to merely one glass per person, per day. And fewer than one in five French adults claim to drink wine every day.

If that doesn't sound like the bottom of the barrel, simply consider that fifty years ago, the French were drinking three times that much wine daily.

In the same period of time the number of bistros (the de facto location for casual drinking) in the country has dropped from 200,000 to 35,000.

Do you see the disaster looming? It's significantly more ominous than the $2000 per household tax raise that threatens to drive America into a recession again.

We're talking about the implosion of the French wine industry, here. There aren't enough rich Chinese to suck up all the excess French wine that's out there on the market! There aren't enough ethanol distillation factories to turn all that wine into car fuel! The millennials aren't learning how to pronounce Carignan fast enough to pick up the slack!

Growers will go bankrupt, vignerons will shoot themselves, and the First Growths might even fail to raise their prices from one year to the next.

Picture that scene from the movie 2012. Except with wine instead of melting glaciers.


That's right. Biblical proportions folks.

The scariest thing to me is that I don't know what to do to stop it. Sure, I'll be drinking more French wine. As much as I can. And urging my friends to do the same. But how the hell do you run an intervention on an entire country?

We need to sit France down and let it know that it's not only harming itself, it's harming all the people who love it. We need to offer it support; to gently suggest that whenever possible, drinking is, in fact, the answer; to tell it that drowning its sorrows in wine is precisely what it needs to do; to insist that it stop sobering up and get back to its days of carefree boozing. And to do it for us.

Viva la France!

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud