French Wine Consumption Drops
While California’s wine consumption is on the rise, the opposite seems to be happening in France. According to a recently released study per capita wine consumption in France continues to fall. Between 2001 and 2005, the average French citizen drank 11% less wine.
And there is no sign that this trend will slow anytime soon. By 2010, it is estimated that French wine consumption will drop another 7.84%. In contrast, worldwide consumption of wine is expected to increase by 9.4% over the same period.
Demand for wine is growing very quickly in the United States and Britain. At the current rate, America will overtake France as the largest wine consuming nation in the world by 2010.
As domestic consumption in France continues to drop, export markets are increasingly important to the nation’s wine industry. But there is fierce competition for these markets from New World wine regions including California, Australia, and Chile.
These countries employ many marketing and labeling tactics that are prohibited by the French AOC and Vin de Pays systems. For example, in most cases French wineries are not able to put the grape varietal on their labels, and must identify the wine by geographic region instead. This is confusing to many consumer, especially at mid to low-range price points.
Much of the wine France is currently producing goes unsold and ends up distilled by the European Union. Since 1988, the EU has also been paying struggling grape growers to pull their vines in a practice called “arrachage.” Over production is particularly a problem in Languedoc, but even Bordeaux is not immune.
To combat this glut, Plan Bordeaux was devised in 2005. It calls for 42,000 acres of vineyards to be uprooted in the region. But the plan has met resistance from growers, negociants, and government officials. It remains to be seen how well the French wine industry will adapt to the changing international market and the decrease in domestic consumption.