More French Wine Protests?
It’s very difficult for this writer to watch the scenes of destruction and mayhem that are the most recent riots in France. I have a long and personal association with that country.
If I did not live where I do, it most likely would be somewhere in France.
Yet, now we read that the current upheaval just isn’t enough to deter the winemakers in the South of France from igniting more protests that, if history is any guide, will lead to more riots.
Earlier this year winemakers in the southwestern region of France went on a spree of destruction, presumably in protest of the low prices they were obtaining for grapes and their wines. Running through the protests that sported firebombs and destruction of private and public property was a clear anti-capitalist mentality.
The French winemakers seemed to think that they should be shielded from a changing global economy.
So, more protests have been planned for December according Phillippe Vergnes, leader of a local Co-op winery union near Narbonne in the south of France. Why are they protesting?
"the rally would be held to protest
against continuing low prices on the market, and apparent government
indifference towards vintners expected to pay high social and
administration charges, despite suffering serious losses this year."
The low end of the French wine industry appears to remain in a free fall. The continental invasion of New World wines in flashy packages that taste fleshy and flamboyant is part of the reason. You’ve also got a series of regulations under which French vintners are forced to labor that simply don’t apply to new world wines.
The problem facing the French wine industry is not going to be fixed by government hand outs. It’s doubtful that tax breaks will help. And I’m positive that protests won’t sell more wine. What needs to happen? Plainly, bankruptcy. The French need to see a slew of wineries go by the wayside so that more business savvy vintners can take over. It would be nice to see a number of the regulations regarding planting, production and sales fall by the wayside.
The French worry that tradition is harmed or threatened by new methods. They are right. It is. However, why not let the vintners decide what traditions they’ll follow. World will get out as to which winery is doing what in the vineyard and in the winery. The market will adjust. There will be plenty of "traditional wines" available to those who want them.
In the mean time, does France really need more protests?
“The continental invasion of New World wines in flashy packages that taste fleshy and flamboyant is part of the reason. You’ve also got a series of regulations under which French vintners are forced to labor that simply don’t apply to new world wines.
The problem facing the French wine industry is not going to be fixed by government hand outs.”
You see, that’s the problem. This won’t be fixed by government regulation and hand-outs, because the problem has been *caused* by government regulation and hand-outs.
Look at the US food market. It is dominated by big supermarkets. But in every major city, and most minor cities in the US, you have a Whole Foods, or a Fresh Market, the type of market that makes its living on organic foods that might cost more and taste roughly the same, but that fill a market niche for people looking for the organics.
I have to think you’d see the same thing in French wine. If consumers wanted the high-end, oak-barrel wines instead of the low-end, oak-chip wines, they’d be willing to pay for it. And the French can certainly compete with Americans in the high-end wines, I think it’s largely in the $10/bottle variety where they’re losing.