Beer instead of wine

France's national drink goes out of fashion

04-Sep-2023 - France
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(dpa-AFX) After the grape harvest, quite a few winegrowers in France's famous wine-growing region around Bordeaux are facing an operation with heavy equipment in the fall: On about 9500 hectares, the vines will be torn out with state aid of millions, because there is an overproduction and economic problems. wine consumption in France has been declining for some time. Instead of the traditional national drink, younger people in particular prefer to drink beer or do without alcohol altogether. Changes in lifestyle are the reason. In addition to this trend, climate change is also presenting France as a wine country with a challenge.

Beer has now overtaken wine - albeit by a razor-thin margin - as the most popular beverage in France in the annual survey conducted by the Sowine marketing company. The preference for beer is stronger among men than women, according to the survey, and white wine is more in demand than red wine. In the survey, 15 percent of people in France said they do not drink alcohol. Among 18- to 25-year-olds, the figure is 23 percent, and in the 50- to 65-year-old age group, only ten percent.

Wine consumption has been decreasing in France for a long time, with younger people in particular turning their backs on the national drink in recent years, as the Vin & Société industry association announced at the turn of the year. Within 60 years, wine consumption by the French has fallen by around 70 percent from over 120 liters per year per inhabitant in 1960 to less than 40 liters in 2020, with wine losing nine percentage points of market share among 18- to 35-year-olds from 2014 to 2021. In 2021, beer accounted for 39 percent of alcoholic beverage purchases by those under 35, while wine accounted for 27 percent.

The industry association sees changes in society as the cause. The traditional meals at which wine is served are becoming less important, and the culture of wine drinking is no longer automatically passed on in families. Also there are more single households, wine is drunk however rather in company. The image of the wine must be polished up in France, demands the federation. It is not a question of calling the French to excess, said Vin & Société President Samuel Montgermont. "The question is quite different: Do we want to see wine on our tables or in our museums in the years to come?"

Warning of the consequences of the downward trend is Bernard Farges, president of the National Committee of the Wine Professions. "Many wine professionals are feeling the effects of the contraction of the market, driven by the decline in consumption, and to which must be added fierce international competition and the recent climatic vagaries." Producers are giving up the profession and no successor will be found for quite a few wineries, he fears.

One of the winegrowers in the Bordeaux area who has submitted a grubbing-up application is André Faugère (65). He produces 1800 hectoliters of red wine on average per year. "I've been working with wine merchants for twenty years to export my wines to Africa and England, but sales are falling," Faugère recently told France 3 radio, adding that falling consumption is affecting red wine more than white or rosé. "I had no short- or medium-term perspective, so I decided to grub up. It was really finding that eating habits have changed and people are drinking less red wine. And beer is gaining market share."

Up to 67 million euros will be paid by the state, the region and the industry association to restructure vineyards around Bordeaux, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau announced. Abandoned cultivated areas are to be reforested. In total, there are currently around 110,000 hectares of cultivated land in the region in western France.

In addition to falling consumption, winegrowers in France are also experiencing increasing periods of drought. In the long term, France's wine sector must prepare itself for the necessary adaptations to climate change, the Ministry of Agriculture recently stated. The government wants to help draw up a strategy. The French Viticulture Institute advised winemakers to grow more climate-resistant vines and to take steps to make viticulture as climate-neutral as possible.

And is all this leading to a booming beer market in France? According to data from the French brewers' association "Brasseurs de France," despite a growing thirst for beer, the French bring up the rear in the EU with a per capita consumption of 33 liters a year. 70 percent of the beer consumed in France is brewed in the country itself, with craft breweries and microbreweries on the rise. And France, the country of gastronomy, can boast regional specialties: the association lists rose and blueberry beers, as well as chicory beers in the north, buckwheat beers in Brittany, and chestnut beers in the Ardèche.

Note: This article has been translated using a computer system without human intervention. LUMITOS offers these automatic translations to present a wider range of current news. Since this article has been translated with automatic translation, it is possible that it contains errors in vocabulary, syntax or grammar. The original article in German can be found here.

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