22 June 2006
In his diary this week, BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell looks at the European Commission's controversial plans to reform wine production - destroying vines, raising quality and taking lessons from the New World.
Your earlier comments:
I can see perfectly well why the EU might want to stop wasting money on distillation. But they should simply cut it out, not try to dictate what the response should be. Offering subsidies to grub up vines will distort the market even more. If the young lady wants to keep producing her wine, let her do so until her money runs out or someone starts buying it.
John Whitehead, Buckingham, UK
Whilst France still does, in my opinion, produce the very best wines in the world, and the elite Chateaux retain their status. It, like other European countries, also produces a lot of fairly naff "vin de table" which are far exceeded by the new world wines.
If the Europeans were to concentrate more on quality and less on quantity, this may be a way for the whole world of wine, from the vineyards to the drinkers, to benefit.
Andrew Burke, Sheffield, United Kingdom
I'm doing my bit to support European wine industry. My preference is for Spanish Rioja & Valdepenas red wines, while my wife drinks Siwss white almost exclusively.
Keith Roberts, Wollerau, Switzerland
I'm assuming that M. Chapelle was exaggerating about "world wines" in order to make a point about what some see as adulteration of wine (through the direct addition of some flavors, such as adding oak flavor using wood chips instead of barrels.) At least, I hope that was his point!
I'm all for people deciding for themselves to make wine, if they like, bad or good -- so long as they aren't expecting their fellow citizens from bailing them out of making the former through subsidies.
Truly good wine will always find a market, particularly good wine at a fair price.
David Hughes, Basel, Switzerland
The EU could aid consumer choice through food labelling:
I don't eat mass market 'chocolate bars', because much like many people in Europe, I don't consider it real chocolate. The ingredients are there and you can see at a glance exactly what goes into cheap bars.
The same it not true of wine. It may well be the case that the consistent, inoffensive New World wines people buy are full of additives and flavourings, but consumers do not know which wines contain such additives, how than they possibly make an informed choice?
There are a number of good reasons to buy European wines (as I almost invariably do), but a serious PR campaign will be required to help consumers make an informed choice. Propping up a failing industry is not feasible in the long term, but rather should be temporary measure while wine producers rethink their customer strategy.
Stephanie Boyd, Edinburgh, Scotland
The part I like in the article is "World Wine" and the unstated criticism that made from components or not, it cannot be as good as French wine. As a short timer in Europe, I find the French wines good, but finding them mystifying. So maybe the issues are really one of labeling/marketing and overproduction. And maybe an admission that other "world wines" are as good as French wine, just a little different, would help the French understand that anyone, even they can make a bad bottle of wine -- a bottle which would be better not made at all. And maybe if market forces were allowed to function, the market would recognize true taste and quality. A subsidy does not make a culture. The culture is made by the traditions associated with enviable & desirable products, events, etc... To the contrary, a subsidy drives the product towards mediocrity, as more people will want money for doing nothing.
J. Siller, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
In the name of our new world god "money", we will stop at nothing, we will tear down all our culture. There is only one best way. Is money a means or and end? If the latter then the EU in competition with the rest of the world is dead in the water anyway. We have NO monopoly on industry, on entrepreneurialism, nor on intelligence and intellect. The only lasting differentiator we have is our european culture in all its diversity. It could be that our ONLY distinct and exportable product in the near future will be this. It should be the last thing we tear down, not the first. Why are we all so intent in this world in ditching our individuality and diversity in the name progress, normaility and conformity? I dont get it.
Stephen Clothier, Zurich, Switzerland
Recent reports suggest that Australian producers have over reacted to their success and are now producing more wine than even they can sell. Australian vineyards are going bankrupt and excess wine is being dumped. This presents a great opportunity to build on the fine tradition of natural wine production in the EU. Effective marketing could reverse the trend and increase sales of EU wines even beyond the success of Australia.
As it is necessary to motivate the industry to take proper action itself, I would respectfully suggest that the EU considers funding a marketing programme in support of its wine producers as part of its total wine strategy. The ability to sell some of the excess and protect EU producers would significantly reduce the need to give funds to growers who pull up their vines, and would increase trade between EU and other countries.
Henrik Fabricius, Copenhagen, Denmark
French wines are overpriced and it's usually impossible to tell what you're buying for the average layman - you wouldn't buy any other product where you can't tell what you're buying, why do the French think that wine would be any different?
Ben Taylor, Bristol, UK
It's funny how British always complain about their taxes being expended in european agriculture programms, even when they are the only country enjoying a EU rebate. Isn't money throwed away in programms that are not related with agriculture, or UK isn't interesting in talking about those programms because they are taking profit from them?
Jose, Madrid, Spain
Don't tell them how to label the wine, just remove or greatly reduce the subsidy, and let them produce it however they want. That way the wines people want to buy will be preserved.
Jay, Cardiff, Wales
It's not about the destroying of the French way of life and culture. There are just too many people in France producing the wine, there will still be alot of vineyards and wine produced in the same way, just less of it. Meaning that what is produced is bought by people who want it, rather than the EU and my tax money. If France's culture is purely based on wine making and agriculture (which I don't think it is) then its not got much of culture.
Mark , Barnstaple, Devon
As a consumer, I buy wines from France (among other countries) and appreciate having a nice array of options to choose from. As long as I find distinctive wines of good value from France, I shall continue to buy them.
There is a (global) marketplace for good wines, yes even wines with traditional French character!
It's hard to see how we are being served well by any of our bureaucrats: the ones in the EU who pay farmers to distill, or the ones in the USA who stifle the market with excessive regulation and taxation.
Todd Mansfield, Cincinnati, USA
There is overproduction of wine in the EU because the New World producers have very cleverly captured the market. France, Italy and others have not lost the market - the new world has gained it.
Digging up the vineyards may stop overproduction but it will not solve the problem. And why does the industry think that changing years of tradition regarding labels will make any difference? All that achieves is a loss of tradition and image which should interpret as 'quality'.
You don't dump tradition - your build on it and exploit it. Given a proper marketing effort, the EU could grab back what the New World has gained and actually sell some of the excess. Therefore, less need to use our taxes to pay growers to pull up their vines.
Unfortunately, the industry itself has proved itself incapable of recognising what the Aussies and others did some years ago - clever marketing helps create sales and revenue growth.
Dave S, Poole, Dorset, UK
I am afraid if the market does not like your product either divest or improve your product.
It makes my blood boil to think of EU money being paid to support anything which is not essential. Even if it is have a sweep stake and only pay to keep just enough producers in each region for heritage. Sorry the rest of you - go and look for another job that makes economic sense.
If they just let market forces prevail the wine producers will evolve the quality of the product, marketing and production methods will improve or they go bust. Eventually only enough wine will be produced to meet a reasonable profit level.
Anon, Glasgow Scotland
The whole problem with CAP is that it rewards people for producing stuff nobody wants, with the intention of maintaining a way of life for a tiny minority of the population. The solution surely is to let the European countryside become one big theme park, paying most farmers just to keep up appearances rather than actually produce anything.
Nic Oatridge, New York, USA
It's outrageous that our tax money goes into propping up failing vineyard businesses. French vineyards are not going to disappear: the ones that make good wine will always find plenty of willing customers. The ones that don't should learn how to make good wine, and if they can't, then they don't deserve to be in business.
Adam, London, UK
Nobody paid for the products of Longbridge to be converted to scrap metal or to close down the plant.
David Burgess, Raleigh, N.C.
I fear that more than anything else the French have failed to market their product at the right level. There was a time when wine was not considered an 'everyday' drink (certainly in Britain) and the Snob value, for want of a better phrase, was a selling point. It is no longer the case. Wine is now firmly embedded in our culture. New world wines aren't any better but are far less confusingly sold, Most people who enjoy an everyday glass or two tend, initially to look at reasonably priced wines with a grape type they recognise, Chardonnay, Colombard, Shiraz or whatever. I freely admit to falling into this category and tend not to buy French wines (rightly or wrongly) simply because I'm not entirely sure of what I'm getting. I can understand Ms Besancenots passion and pride but it needs to be balanced with what the main sector of the market is demanding, essentially drinkable wines at a reasonable price.
I have no problems if European wines have better labeling as long as the "world wines" have a label stating "NOT A NATURAL PRODUCT".
Mark, Ammersee, Germany
I would say to these farmers or anyone that makes something for which there is no market " get real".
It's unfair for the rest of us, and actually impovrishes the region and community in the long term more than anything else. Subsidies don't work, they just make people lazy, as demonstrated by the laisez faire attitude of the farmers content to take subsidies on one hand, then moan about the demands from the EU.
Its simple do what u want with your grapes and wine, but then don't expect any state assistance.
Good wine will allways sell, if the people in the area are worried about vineyards getting ripped up, then why don't they question why it is that it can be ripped up in exchange for subsidies, when the farmers are apparently so passionate about there rows of vineyards... looks to me like they are just reaching for any $$ they can.
robert southey, london
I am a wine drinker but have not bought any French wines for twenty years, enjoy Spainish wines.As a taxpayer I resent paying any sort of subsidy to anyone,the French should be no exception, earn your money.
arthur harvey, Beverley, England
The arguments of economics and quality are surely closely linked. Those with a passion for quality wines should welcome hard nosed economics, since that will weed out the poor wines and will in the end sustain the quality wines at a price the consumer is willing to pay. I suspect that, as anywhere, unwillingness to open up and compete on even terms is less to do with tradition, and more to do with the fear of losing out to the competition.
John Ormrod, Fleet, UK
I can understand why the EU subsidised food production after the war but why was wine included? This had nothing to do with ensuring food supply and preventing famine. The real reason was French dominance of the early days of the Union. Why should EU tax payers pay for the lifestyles of a small number of wine producers (small relative to an EU population of 400 million)? Last time I looked no one subsidises and protects my job, or my wife's or in fact anyone I know in the UK or the reset of Europe. Wouldn't we all love a guaranteed income regardless of the quality of what we produced.
David fisher, London, England
I find it amusing that the country that brought us the Golden Delicious Apple could even dare to talk about quality above quantity and maintaining a way of life. It has taken many years to recover the apple industry in England. Scrap the CAP and allow the wine growers to compete on a level playing field.
Roy Miles, Bromsgrove, England
At my local supermarket in France you can buy a 10 litre box of locally produced wine for 15 euros. It's virtually undrinkable yet it's piled high on the shelves. There are some excellent local wines that sell for 15 euros a bottle. It's not hard to guess which producers are still going to be in business in 5 years time. France is not a theme park maintained for tourists, it's time they woke up to economic reality, which is that nobody has a 'right' to be paid to produce goods nobody wants to buy.
Lee, Roussillon, France
One of the reasons people in UK feel somewhat bitter about the EU is that there has never been a plan to buy, for example, unwanted coal, or unwanted Rover cars. So, we say, why should we pay the French to produce other items no-one wants.
I do however have a lot of sympathy for the little guy, be he French farmer or Nottingham miner at the mercy of globalization (and lets not forget the drinks industry is hugely globalised) but better by far that EU subsidy is used to help people explore better marketing, improve products or move to new products.
Richard Moon, Bedford, UK
I would hate to see the disappearance of traditional French wine production, but why should we subsidise agriculture against other industries. I'm from Coventry originally, home of over 2 dozen car marques, and nobody sees it as a right for Coventry to continue to make cars - far from it. Peugeot is subsidised to move to Slovakia, taking with it the right to such names as Singer, Sunbeam, Hillman, Humber, Commer and Rootes. Surely, if the French are to be subsidised to grow wine for distillation and destruction, it would be fair for the people of Coventry to be paid to build cars which nobody wants and then smash them up at 'crash derby's' before recycling the remains!!
Paul Wesson, Carterton, England
Mark Mardell's article highlights the dilemma perfectly. One thought which comes to my mind though is the question of yield.
Wine experts around the world bemoan the high yield produced by many vineyards, thus effecting the quality of the grapes. Surely if they reduced the supply, there would be a better quality product which could be sold at a higher price. Thus, if the consumer wants plonk, they can get it. Those who want decent but not extravagantly-priced wine can also get that.
There is a large market for this. Beleive me, there's no 'new world' wine boom in France!
Simon Harrow, St. Germain-en-Laye, France
Part of the reason that wine from France is harder to sell is that its population, like much of the rest of europe, is aging and a much older population drinks less wine for many reasons (health, mobility, money). France needs another baby boom and in about 15-20 years the subsidies won't be needed. Can France wait?
Van Parker, Greenwich, CT, USA
Well, actually I don't think wine producers who are doing well financially speaking get subsidised at all. Subsidises are intended as transients rescue measures, even if they turn out as permanent in some regions.
Quite the opposite, wealthy producers pay a huge amount of money for other's subsidies. So one can hardly see subsidising as a competition boost against the new world, it is more like delaying the unavoidable.
Benoit Follin, Oslo, Norway
French wine is infinitely superior to any of the new World wines. Unfortunately it has become "unfashionable" recently due to a few television programs and the sheep that follow them. Hopefully it will swing back again, perhaps (God forbid) we should get Jamie Oliver on the case ?
I just wanted to say that I am sick and tired of as a taxpayer in Sweden to se my money gowing to people who can't make living by their own. They don't pay for my living and I certainly don't want to pay for thers. The French should wake up and se that the world has changed.
Johan Andersson, Sweden
""World wine" is alcohol with water, flavourings and acid added." Well, the French would say that wouldn't they? The first reaction to competition of any organisation that has hitherto enjoyed more or less a monopoly, is to rubbish the opposition. Now let them get on the with second reaction, hopefully before it's too late - improve their product and make it relevant to the growing market of wine-drinkers out there.
Steve Pauline, Warrington, UK
In the early eighties wine was subsidised in B.C by putting a 40% markup on imported wine. Local wines were not great to say the least. When the Government was pressured to take off the subsidy the wineries wanted to set their hair on fire, were going to tear up their vines etc etc. Seeing as we have some wonderful growing conditions and the climate some suggested that we try and produce quality wines. (VQA). Guess what? Our BC wines have one awards in Europe and the industry is thriving.
Malcolm Barnes, Vancouver, B.C. Canada
Nobody has questioned whether French wines are better than the New World variety. Perhaps its just my palate, but I have travelled to many regions of the new world (as well as the old), and have sampled wines from all. To be honest, I find the New World wines far more complex and interesting; and if I compare wines in the same price brackets, the new world wines are far superior. And as for this industrial wine story, I'd love that person to go to Stellenbosch, or the Napa valley, or Margaret river, and say the same thing.
chris mlynarczyk, Edinburgh UK
How can you even think that comparing "world wine" and French wine. The French wine is done with love and care, as to the other it's not even worth imagining how it's done.
As to thinking that producing wine is a "hobby" maybe you should go and try working with Mdme. Besancenot, then you will really see what it's like. As she said "wine is not about money, it's a passion, it comes from the heart."
I love going to France and really enjoy the culture.
Vive la France.
Nathalie JOnes, London. UK
I,m Canadian nobody has mentioed the kind of wine they are making on the banks of Lake erie Both dry and sparking, i am not a connesur and i think it,s very good So i think we all have to compete, thats what world TRADE is about
George Hitchmough, Chatam ONT Canada,
I think that most French winemakers consider their activity as a passion more than a way of earning a living. The same can go for many other jobs, the only thing is that if you don't actually make any money for your company, you will be told to move on.
But, France wouldn't be France without its vineyards!
I think more work should be done on persuading the producers to concentrate on marketing, communication and adaptation of the labels, rather than ripping up half of the French landscape. Recently, in the Cognac area, farmers have been subsidised to replant vineyards which had been destroyed for economic reasons in the previous years.
Saffron, La Rochelle France
I sympathize with the French wine makers ...unfortunately, in every business, one has to bend with the market directions, and snobbery and high prices are not compatible with a product where success hinges on mass consumption. With newer vinyards in the "new world" and some very good wines coming from there, the French have to change their marketing methods if they want to survive.
Debabrata Ray, St Louis, USA
There is nothing wrong with French Wine, except for poor labelling and information. What is wrong is EU agricultural policy. Take away the financial safety net from farmers and watch as they quickly adapt to current market situations, return to profitability and find alrernative commercial uses for the 'spare' land.
David Turner, Jakarta, Indonesia (UK expat)
Every other country is being made to face harsh economic fact - how long can the EU continue to allow one of its largest members (France) to flout those facts, making the rest of us foot the bill?
Iain Howe, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Well done to the French. Sticking up to the materialistic Anglo Saxon mentality again. If there is a reason behind the UK's increase in alcohol consumption, it is surely to do with the culture of working 14 hour days and forgetting about it in the Bar. If those drinkers where more educated they would be turning to wine instead of beer and bringing down their consumption.
Erica, Reading; UK
A major trouble is that French wines change every year with the different weather conditions. "New world" wines are the same, year after year. This means that the consumer can be sure to get a good wine from the "New world" without having to think or experiment. It's the easy, almost lazy, way out. With French wines a little research (hell but...) and thought is needed. Some will be no better than "New world", others will be stunning.
John Scallan, Sens sur Seille, Burgundy, France
France has the capacity to feed the whole of Europe. Unless the EU is prepared to subsidise it, large parts will become barren and we would be at the mercy of outside producers. Which is better? Subsidise the agricultural industry which actualy produces something or subsidise the employees to sit at home drawing unemployment benefit;
The French once did a good job of marketing their wines, cheeses and other food and drink products as being superior, convincing people that they were. However, the fact is, they are no longer superior. Wines from the US, South Africa, Chile, Australia and other wine producing countries are no usually superior to their French rivals. As for cheeses, you can find better cheeses in dozens of countries around the world than in France.
It was French misplaced arrogance and a resistance to try new methods that has led to this situation. Looking at the "head in the sand" mentality of many of the French, more of the same can be expected.
Jacques Molitor, Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg
The Italian-French wines are the best. I would not think of buying an American wine. Rather than destroy a wonderful wine, maybe they should increase promotion.
Richard McCarthy, NC USA
Mark, you should try to get some Tillamook regular sharp cheddar or 18-month-aged sharp cheddar next time you're in the western US. I've had a lot of English cheeses which I love (and miss here in Krakow) from specialty stores in the US ...but I think ol' Tillamook's sharp cheddar is quite good.
Brad Zimmerman, Krakow, Poland (originally: Portland, Oregon, USA)
Subsidies to scrap vinyards or convert useless wine? No - it's time that the rest of Europe caught up with the UK. In a free-market economy, either you adapt or die. If Frenchy, German or Italian wine (or in some cases vinegar) makers cannot sell their produce, then they need to change (like, for example, the UK fishermen who have been banned from taking more than their allocated catch). We should not be subsidising countries and individuals for their inept and backward way of looking at the modern world economy.
Bryn Roberts, Richmond, Yorkshire, UK
perhaps if the french could make a more fruity aromatic red other than the same old bland plonk then we would buy it.
clive james, dorset england
French and Italian wine maker have forgotten that the customer is king. Consumer do not want an education in wine tasting or enology or History. They want a good wine at a reasonable price. That is what Australia and new Zealand are doing. As a taxpayer I do not like that my money be spent to keep in businnes obsolete an snobbish wine maker of any country.
Ruggero Cimatti, ARESE Milano
Why change something that people want to something nobody wants because it ie "efficient".
Food and wine are not about efficiency. We are what we eat and drink.
France can feed itself. Can Britain.
In France you can go to a market anywhere and buy fresh, local grown food.
In UK you can get stale food from Spain, Poland and anywhere else generally, except UK. In France you have a huge selection of fish, meat, cheese and any other food you want to eat. Compare that to most shops in UK.
Bon chance to the French.
Jim Fuller, Melksham WILTSPeter Wright, Brisbane Australia
As long as the French are subsidised for producing wine that can't compete with Australian wine, they will keep doing it. As Mdme. Besancenot believes it is her right to produce wine, let her do so, but why does everyone have to support what can otherwise be described as a "hobby".
jack spahr, canberra australia
I'm afraid I have to disagree about cutlery order and wine. Lack of manners or knowledge can work for a period, i.e. while the inprint from the previous structure is in place but with time it breaks down. You claim you are not sure you want to see french cheeses made the american way? So why do you want european wines made that way? Cut the subsidy but make it clear what is good manners (person trained to respect others) and what is not!
I'd like to comment on a small point at the end of your article. When (the French mainly) talk about knowledge-based, it is mainly in line with preserving and developing the skills that are already in place. I think it must also include traditional farming.
Lavinia, Toulouse, France
Mark has finely summarised the dilemma: We need to preserve our country side (and most people in the UK would subscribe to that), and at the same time the country side has to serve the actual market needs. To educate the customer sounds good, but almost never works. In mass markets, customers will always choose price over quality.
That still doesn't justify the defensiveness of the French winegrowers: They potentially have an excellent product, but their marketing is arrogant and snobbish. Funny enough, the same attitude has brought France to the lower ranks of Eurovision and the world cup. It seems that France as a nation refuses to base its success on merit which is bizarre for a country that is more of a meritocracy than most other European countries.
Ronald Vopel, Brussels, Belgium
I have travelled around California, Chile, Australia and New Zealand - and have visited many wine producers in these areas. Many are meticulous followers of traditional wine making methods - and produce excellent wine - varying of course to accomodate local conditions and tastes - as well as export markets. Every wine country also churns out plonk. Perhaps none more so than the three big European players. South African wine heritage stems from 17th Century French Hugenots - and this strong link is perhaps an even more traditional base than many current European wine producers can boast. And vines around the world (with the exception of parts of Chile and Cypress) are hybrid U.S. rootstock - lest we forget the bemoaned "New Worlds" contribution to global viniculture.
Lee, Cape Town, South Africa
Get real and stop being propped up with our tax revenue
A. Reader, Paris
I just want to remind Mark Mardell that France and Spain are not the only wine producing nations in Europe and that he should come and have a look at how wine is produced in Italy, following the maxim "local product for local consumption" - much less wine is waisted and the EU is not cheated.
Giuseppe Rossi, Rome, Italy
Yes, let France turn itself and its countryside into a museum, and I will gladly pay my entrance fee. But please, please stop this idiocy of farming subsidies.
Paul, Amsterdam, Netherlands
My question for the 23 year old who runs' her family vineyard. If you product is so good then why talk money from the Eu or your government? If the public don't understand it then invest in better marketing and labelling that explains how good it is and why. May be you could even translate that label into the language of your public.
Anna Wotherspoon, Stamford, Lincolnshire
I'm a Brit working for a large wine cooperative in the Languedoc. In the next couple of years, the whole social fabric of this area will change. I cannot condone Europe paying millions to distill bad wine, but the thought of what is going to happen is worrying. One conservative estimate suggests that between 20 and 30 percent of the vines in the languedoc will be ripped up for good this coming winter if the EU subsidies are enticing enough. Not only will this have a huge social effect, but the landscape will also change for the worse as there aren't really any other agricultural products that can be farmed down here apart from olive and some fruit trees which take years to start producing.
Mark's report was interesting, as always, but if he wants to see what the "crise" is really about, he should come to the Languedoc, where the proverbial is about to hit the fan. I'd be pleased to show him around.
The French are apparently doing what the British did many years ago to the motorcycle and the large marine engine business. We produced the best at the time (i.e. Triumph, BSA, Doxford etc.) and then sat back without checking what the rest of the world were up to. By the time we realised our market share was plummeting it was too late to recover. Like the French, we said "We produce the best, why change anything?" I admit that I do not care for the French 'over-producers' with their heads in the sand, but do care when MY money is supporting the snobbish attitude attributed to the young lady in the article who claims it her right to continue producing the same product with no market value.
Chris Warren, Corfe Mullen, Wimborne
Friends tell me that every week in English supermarkets there are 'special offers' of wine from Chile, California, Australia, etc. Never such offers on French wine. The decline in the sales of French wine ( even good French wine) is largely attributable to poor marketing. The new world wines bear labels for the new, young buyer describing not the wonderful region it comes from,nor its tradition, but what to drink it with. For a young person with money and the desire to get it right this factor is important.
Thank you for the Diary, I look forward to Thursdays, Norrie
Norrie Hearn, Ste Marie D'Alvey, France
Does the EU want to turn our countries into identical clones? I go to France regularly and see that there is a definite change, things there are becoming more European and the French identity, way of life is lessening! We are all individuals with our own countrys history why are we having to lose it?
France without wine, without cheese etc could be any country - let them manage their own vineyards!!!
Carolyn Bentley, Leeds, UK
Reducing waste is important but eroding a culture is even more significant. I love France precisely because it resists change and retains its identity. The same goes for Italy, Switzerland etc etc. If the EU wants to cut waste it should embrace more sustainable agricultural practices which reduce yield but provide high quality and varied products. I hate going to the supermarket knowing that foods A,B and C will be there whenever I need them. I want variety and I want change. If I can't handle it I am a shadow of a human being.
We should stop worrying about money and the financial 'difficulties' and embrace variety.
Ross Paradise, Wokingham, UK
I enjoyed your article very much. You pose a difficult question: Would we want Provence to be a second Peterbourough?
Being economically minded and thouroughly Anglonized I would still say no. I would want Provence to stay as it is. Hence it is perhaps now the time to state that preserving a unique cultural heritage with all its dimensions adds more value to us than hard economic realities.
Seroed Aga, The Hague, Netherlands
The blandness that is the European dream as it now is will destroy much of what makes Europe interesting and beautiful. The capitalists and dull middle classes will grow ever wealthier, and the real richness of Europe ever less. Europe is already a much less interesting place than it was, and it'll get ever more dull as the dullards in the EC grow ever more influential.
Paul Johnson, Auckland, New Zealand
Mark your weekly diary is as enjoyable as the Californian & Aussie wine I consume daily. Wunderbar!Mon ami, mate!
dominic, languedoc, france
That was a very interesting article. What I would like to read more about is this 'vin' versus 'World Wine' issue. Is it true that some wine is made by component parts rather than fermentation?
David White, Stone, UK
No-the French don`t make ordinary wine nearly as well as the new wine makers, they are too chauvinist and haven`t invested nearly enough in new methods and plant> They do however have a culture and lifestyle to be envied. Vive la difference! -a Francophile
rob McWhinnie, rotherham uk
Tradition is important.
Whether we are talking about French wine or Scotch Whisky.Hundreds of years of experience have gone into perfecting these and like products for our benefit.I prefer a good Coté de Rhone or a Bon Bordeaux Chateau X Y Z. To some of the New World Wines on the Market now.
Give me A Fifteen year old single malt anytime.
A really open and free market economy is what is needed.Get rid of the CAP and let the customer choose. He/she will always pick whats good for them at a price that would be "right".
Alan David Pena, Brussels , Belgium
"I wonder if we really want...French agriculture so efficient that it produces cheese of the same quality as you get in the US."
In a word, "No." But I'm lucky; I live in New York City and can get reasonably priced cheeses, salamis, hams, etc. of excellent quality and, if you know where to look, at reasonable prices. Actually a lot of this stuff IS made in the US
Oddly enough the only places I know in the country you can get Longhorn cheese, once considered the standard industrial "yellow" cheese only one slight step up from "American" cheese and universally available, is at Zabars, a famous deli with a large cheese selection. It tastes much better than the third generation imitation Longhorn "style" cheeses you find in the supermarkets.
Also oddly enough, price per pound at Zabars, a gourmet shopping location is only about 60-70 percent that at supermarkets for the crummy imitations of this distinctly non gourmet item (I use it in cooking several dishes).
Lesson? The issue here isn't industrial efficiency nor were customers clammoring for poorer tasting cheeses, Instead one might point to inefficiencies of scale in the distribution of agricultural products, monopoly pricing, and, well just plain greed. So the US is no model.
About the wines? The question is, can they just tear out the poorer quality bushes? and if the farmer do so, what will they plant in place of the grapes? CAN they diversify?
I grew up on a dairy farm in the Arkansas Ozarks. The farmers have my sympathy, but they really SHOULD just be subsidizing the best and throw away the rest.
Hal Porter, New York, NY; USA
Wonderfull, keep up the French Traditions. I aggree, wine is more then just money.
But the best vino comes from here in Australia.
We have the soil,the climate, plenty of sunshine and the people from the best wine making regions of the World.
We have Italians, French, Hungarians and of course Germans. This Germans making wines in Australia for more then 150 years.
I love my wines from the Tokaj, Badacsony, Kis and Nagy Somlo,Reinland, but I love my wines the best from the Barossa and Hunter Walleys of Australia.
Viva la France, Viva la Australian Wines.
Bert, Condell Park, NSW, Australia
Comments up to now have addressed just about every aspect of the problem facing French wine makers - except one major one. One probably not sufficiently appreciated by those not living in France. However, one Italian contributor got it right. Wine producing for local consumption keeps Italy's production in relatively good shape. A major problem for French wine production is that the French themselves are drinking less and less of it - especially the young. Anglosaxon wine drinking culture is alive and kicking, guzzling easily appreciated varietal wines as party, afternoon and early evening drinks. For young French culture, wine has for a long time been seen as a boring, stuffy old habit, associated with an old France that the new speedy city culture is not interested in. French wine industry has to change the image of the product for it's own population to find a solution to the growing crisis.
John Rogers, Pays-de-Gex, France
This is an issue that cuts to the heart of the European Union and the huge difference that cultural herritage generates between the old and new worlds.
The great bounty of Europe is it's very diverse cultural mix and it is vital that this treasure trove be preserved. Let us not forget that the Union was created with the intent of protecting Europe not as a means of exporting "Europeanisim". It is right and necessary that every country hold out for it's uniqueness and so we should accept a parliament in conflict as one that is working.
God or who ever else is out there forbid that the differences between member states be erroded to the point where you can find no difference between Poland and Britain. No doubt the new world nations scrabbling to find traditions and producing in their efforts such nonsenses as the carrying of guns as a cultural marker find this hard to understand.
Clearly the knotty problem of substandard production and surpluses need to be sorted out but given the propensity for a diverse conglomerate of nations to produce more rational political decisions on the world stage is a small price to pay indeed.
Brent Evans, Genoa Italy
Instead of paying farmers to pull up vineyards, which is an irreversible act, why doesn't the EU spend the money on marketing French wines to the world? Only about 1 in 8 Americans regularly drinks wine, so there is a huge untapped market here. Just convince a small percentage of US beer drinkers to try (French) wine and the problem would be solved. Maybe the pitch could be "Drink wine...it's a healthy drink in moderation, and it tastes good too." Wine consumption here in California really only took off when wine was 'demystified' and the average person could drink moderately priced wine according to what their tastes dictated, instead of what some distant 'wine expert' said they should like. After this introduction, some went on to appreciate the finer wines, after a process of self education. So I guess I agree with Norrie Hearn's comments about marketing.
Mark Voelker, Emeryville, California, United States
I have to start this by saying that I, for the most part, prefer French wines, Rhone reds, in particular. New World chardonnays, for example, do not compare, in my humble opinion, to Burgundy's (unless they seek to mimic the Burgundian style, as seems to be a growing trend). But as a matter of economics, the New World (Australia, South America, and the U.S.) is proving itself far superior to France in marketing, if nothing else. While the New World does produce some great wines (Littorai in the U.S. immediately springs to mind, as does a number of New Zealand sauvignon blancs), I prefer the complexities and subtleties inherent in French wines. What France needs, in this age of errant Capitalism (to which I myself ascribe, to some extent), is a new marketing scheme... sadly, "money talks" much more persuasively than culture or tradition. Let the world know about the Chateau Neuf-du-Papes, the Chateau de Fieuzals, the Chateau Margauxs, and the world may realize the value in France's great wines. France: Don't stoop to lower yourself to "industrial wines." The average Amercian doesn't know a Medoc from a mandolin. A Pauillac from a pinata. Advertise! Educate us!
Robert Metcalf, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA