I suppose I should feel sorry for these guys, but... I don't:
Stuck with hundreds of millions of bottles they can't sell in a toughening global market, vintners want to distill some of France's winelake into industrial-use alcohol.Why are times so tough for French winemakers? Well, it seems that more people these days, believe it or not, are buying American:
It wouldn't just be swill heading for destruction: Most of the 66 million gallons vintners hope to recycle is considered high-quality.
Such destruction would be unprecedented for "appellation" wines that carry France's AOC seal of origin and quality. Although nearly 71.3 million gallons were distilled into alcohol in 2002, that was second-rate table wine. This time, 267 million bottles of AOC wines would be boiled down in stills if vintners get their way.
Pressured by Californian Chardonnays and other vintages from the new world, French wine exports fell by 6.6 percent in volume and 6.1 percent in value in the first 11 months of 2004.And, in a perfect display of poetic justice, France's problems are exacerbated by the ever-expanding web of ridiculously detailed E.U. regulations:
Vintners say distilling wine into alcohol would cut surplus stocks — which were swelled by a bumper harvest last year — and help restore the balance between supply and demand.Oh well. At least they'll have plenty of vino on hand to drown their sorrows. L'Chaim!
But because of European Union regulations, the process requires getting not only French but also European official approval.