An Ocean of Wine is Swamping France This Year, So It's Paying to Destroy What's Left

France is turning to its old playbook: destroying surplus wine and propping up prices.  It's going to spend about $216 million to destroy enough wine to fill more than 100 Olympic-size swimming pools.  Producers will use the funds to distill their wine into pure alcohol to be used for other products, such as cleaning supplies or perfume.

Agence France-Presse quoted Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau as saing the money was “aimed at stopping prices collapsing and so that winemakers can find sources of revenue again.”

Wine consumption has fallen preciptously since 1926, when the average French citizen drank about 136  liters a year.  Today, he drinks about 40 liters a year.

Bad Timing

As production has plummeted, producton costs have rises and inflation has tightened budgets around the world.  That's especially true since the pandemic, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine also played a role, disrupting shipments of products vital to winemaking.  And then there is climate change, which is forcing growers out of their  comfortable old routines.

France has been struggling with overproduction since the 19th  Century.  Some vintners hope the industry pauses to consider long-term adaptation to changing conditions.

Not Just France

As of June this year, production was estimated up 4%, a bit more than usual.  But consumption is down about 7% in Italy, 10% in Spain, 15% in France, 22% in Germany and 34% in Portugal.

The French government is encouraging wine producers to consider other crops to deal with climate change and the changing market.  It will also pay up to $6,500 per hectacre (about 2.5 acres) to help growers safely uproot vines.