French drinkers develop taste for greener wine

France's much cherished wine industry is often accused of being behind the times or slow to adapt but recent surveys suggest times indeed are changing with more and more vineyards opting to produce organically made tipple.

French drinkers develop taste for greener wine
The French are developing a thirst for organic wine. Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

According to a new Ipsos poll carried out in advance of the 2014 Montpellier Organic wine fair "Millesime Bio", one in three French people are already drinking organic wine or “Vins bio” as they are known.

When it comes to the sales figures, they tell a similar story. According to figures quoted in the news site 20 Minutes on Monday the turnover of “Vins bio” in 2012 totalled €413 million compared to €249 million in 2007.

France is home to around 65, 000 hectares of vineyards dedicated to organic wine or in other words 8.2 percent of the total area of land used for wine making. That represents a jump of three percent compared to 2011, but it is not enough to put the country top of the European league table.

When it comes to the amount of land used for growing organic wine, Spain is out in front, with France tucked in behind and Italy in third.

Of the “Made in France” organic wine 60 percent of it is guzzled in France and the remaining 40 percent is exported with Germany, the United States and Japan the main recipients.

In terms of French regions Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur is leading the way for organic wine production.

A move towards organic wine is the not the only change taking place in the French wine industry. Last week The Local reported how some of France’s elite wine-makers are looking beyond Bordeaux and Côtes-du-Rhônes and planting roots in China.

But in general however all is not well in France’s wine industry with wine makers finding a new government plan to reinforce health warnings on bottles hard to swallow.

Bernard Farges, chair of CIVB (Comité interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux) told The Local earlier this month that wine makers were "being treated like drug dealers".

“You cannot warn about the dangers of alcohol or suggest how many glasses you should drink by putting it on a label on a bottle of wine. People need to be educated about this," he said.

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts