Corona – Distilling away French wine in stock?

It started so well – but what happened next!

The harvest in Provence 2019 had a very good quality that gave wines with a good balance between acidity and fruit, i.e. healthy and fresh wines that are so typical of Provence. But just when the wines had finished fermenting in the wine cellars, the misery began, or what about the following.

Donald Trump introduced a 25% penalty tax on e.g. French wines, this has a strong impact on Provence as the USA accounts for 46% of exports (Blog 2020-01-14 / 2020-02-23)

A winter and spring with difficult weather conditions that will reduce the harvest in 2020:

  • The winter was unusually warm and the frost-sensitive buds appeared on vines in the department Var already in January (Blog 2020-01-19) and unluckily the frost it came the last week of March with temperatures down to -7 ℃. The frost affected all of Provence where only colder areas survived because the budding had not come as far there.
  • On the 18th of May came hailstorms where hail up to 2 cm in diameter hit the vineyards in the department of Var.
  • April and May were also unusually wet, which gave mildew infestations (mildiou) on the vines in the south of France.

It is hard to be a winemaker, even in Provence, which most people perceive has a “very good” climate!

As if this were not enough for the vinegrowers, then came Covid-19 in March which with the closure of French society made the vineyard and wine cellar work more difficult. But the big loss came from the lack of tourism and the fact that all restaurants and bars as well as the wine producers’ wine cellars were closed so deliveries from the producers decreased in March by as much as 36%, seen throughout the year until May, the loss is 18%.

As in many other countries, they try to get the French to spend their holiday in France and then Provence should be a good choice! The marketing organization for Provence wines has redirected 1.3 million Euros from exports to local and French activities and as part of this came the app “Destination Vins de Provence” which will help tourists find wine producers, wine cellars and restaurants. There has also been an increased activity on the internet where investments are made in increased sales via the internet and also many online wine tastings.

So now producers in Provence and all of France have a large surplus of wine, especially in Provence where almost 90% is rosé wine which is usually consumed during the first year after harvest. Sad especially as 2019 is an excellent vintage in Provence.

One measure that has been discussed is to get an exemption so that a larger proportion of older vintages can be mixed into the expected smaller harvest by 2020. Normally 15% older wine can be mixed in, but the discussion is now to increase this to 30%, but can the rosé wines from Provence keep its freshness then? The hope is now that summer sales will return to normal levels so that this does not have to be resorted to.

Another even more dramatic measure is to distill away the surplus wine in stock in France. There is a national funding for distilling off a volume corresponding to 270 million bottles (!), but the need is estimated to be as much as 470 million bottles. The distillation started on 5 June and the wine producers are reimbursed with an amount corresponding to 0.59 € for 75 cl AOP and IGP wine and 0.36 € for “Vin de France” wine.

Say what you will about the distillation, the positive is that there will be no shortage of hand disinfectant for the continued Covid-19 management ….

Help reduce the volume distilled by buying French wines, preferably wines from Provence!

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