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A BBC comment on the wine market...
followed by reader comments. Some rather interesting reading. My comment was not withheld, so ...here it is...
I feel very strongly about wine, which I’ve learned to love since 1975 or so...
Indeed, the exquisite cultural privilege of sometimes allowing oneself to disburse sufficient cash to drink the very best wines needs to be narrowly corrolated with the freedom of producers to earn their fair share in that marketplace.
It is totally inacceptable that taxpayers be funding the perpetuation of non-competitive products: the mega (agricultural) business of ";industrial"; mass wine production, wherein Europe cannot ever be competitive. European funding of (relatively) inferior wines should end, the sooner the better, but how to go about that, is a historical problem facing the nation of Europe.
The top wines don’t get nor need any tax money: they are THE model for world-class wine!
It’s the -precious- middle sector of, generally small, EUROPEAN (not only French!) wine producers who need to -somehow- be safeguarded and who deserve support: German or Luxembourg Rieslings, respectable Hungarian or Italian small scale quality wine growers...
It is sad to say that the general public’s lack of knowledge or better said, genuine interest, in wines would possibly lead to wiping out the splendid and unique European middle-class of distinctive wine production. These are the people who really don’t give a hoot, as long as they get properly ";smooth";, preferably without a headache the next morning or, as Prez. Eisenhower reportedly once said, ";to the best of my knowledge I prefer Coke";.
For years now, the media have been lustily publicising France’s -real- problems in competitively selling their wines in a world where the Chileans make absolutely satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Less is it being publicised that Australia, in spite of booming export figures, is also suffering from having her cellars overflowing with 1 billion litres of unsold wines ...
I read France would be adopting some of the hitherto ";unspeakable methods"; sometimes legal in other wine-producing countries, such as the use of oak chips or some (chemical) acidity-balancing operations. Nothing of the sort will solve the gallic problems, on the contrary, as -basically- the problem of the French is not as such related to quality. It is the pricing and the marketing. The international image of France is not good, and sometimes there seems to be nothing more fun than bashing frogs. And it is symtomatic that it would be the political representatives of the makers of insipid blue cheese or fake fetta who would lead the charge.
Personally, I would like to recommend that less of the focus would be directed at hurting France than to find an honorable compromise which would safeguard both the sacrosanct principles of free enterprise as well as the no less valuable and wonderful heritage of distinctive traditional wines.
World economics (cheap agriculture), European subsidies (sugar, butter, wine) have rendered any such solution most problematic and, undoubtedly in the long end, extremely painful. I’m afraid there ain’t gonna be any winners, but the chief executives will continue enjoying their Château Petrus (and not merely ";Merlot";).
Absolutely right, I’d say. We do need vinepull schemes, and we don’t need to blindly follow Oz precepts - if we do, we will lose, no question, even leaving out the marketing issue, just because of economies of size.
Thanks for your support, dear Suiko. It’s just ...frustrating... that there is a real danger of a rather unique heritage being wiped out by shallow judgments based, inter alia, upon price, degrees of alcohol, and a lopsided taste envelope (from the kid’s coca cola to adult’s aversion of any degree of acidity and/or bitterness).
I once caused icy silence to ensue (from the junior marketing person in charge of leading tourists around a large -and good- Camembert coöperative producer) just by asking ";Et les french kids, do they eat Camembert?";. No reply was offered! I am convinced they do not eat smelly French cheese: they eat corn flakes and drink orange juice! Just comme l’amérique.
I am convinced Italy and France (in that order) have a massive treasure grove of grape varieties, distinctive regions, each with their respective wines, showing different characteristics, that needs to be respected and -somehow- protected by the popular steamroller of supermarket homogeination. Please do not misunderstand me! I am not pleading for the protection of the many millions of hectoliters of subsidized undrinkable sour french cat-woowoo and dog-weewee! I am pleading for the likes of the (unpopular!) Malbec noble wines of Cahors,(difficult) Loire Cabernet Francs, (unknown and unloved) Jura grape varieties etc. etc.
I am aware this is a hispanic website, specifically as regards Spain, my opinion is that the peninsula resides in a transitional zone between ";easy"; and ";classic";. Rioja is certain to increasingly suffer in times to come, Jerez has been in trouble for a long time. There are many good wines being made in Spain, nay, excellent wines. San Román...uff...(love it)...distinctive Priorat... And there is the ocean of merely satisfying Riberas, Tempranillos top bottom, left, right and center. Spain, watch your prices!
Ufff,quite a lot amount of complex information you gave us… The BBC article is rather illuminating. I do agree with part of the ideas you expose…. This crisis is mainly a problem of big enterprises producing massive quantities of wine… and also a problem of “newbies” in the wine industry that look for also prestige or easy money. We must make some structural changes in the wine industry try to preserve the European wine heritage (I know, that is easy to say than to achieve..)… Unfortunately I do not think that the designers of the reform have a clear-cut knowledge about the wine industry and all of their peculiarities…
Very nice article, a difficult problem ... and I believe, little hope of a good solution ... politicians are not going to give a ’nice’ solution, just solutions that are ’convenient’ to powerful groups ... diversification is dying, everywhere ... that’s the sign of our times (which will change in other times ahead). I do not like it ... but my only selfish consolation is to think that, 50 years ago, with all the diversity, terroir, and whatever, only the very few, very rich could ";enjoy"; the diversity. Mine not belonging to any traditionally VIP family, I think that, all in all, I’ll drink much better wines in the future than I could have ever drunk 50 years ago in my social ";status"; (to begin with, women did not use to drink wine :-DDDD )