Why French vineyards will be producing more sweet wines in 2022

Several French wine-growing areas, such as Sauternes, are particularly known for their sweet wines, but this year will see an unusual amount of sweet wines produced - here's why.

Why French vineyards will be producing more sweet wines in 2022
A person serves some sweet wine during a tasting at the Chateau d'Yquem in Sauternes, southwestern France, on January 28, 2019. (Photo by GEORGES GOBET / AFP)

In Opoul, a village located north of Perpignan near the Pyrenees mountains, wildfires raged during the month of June. 

The area is usually home to Côte du Roussillon wines, made from Opoul grapes. While some vines in the area caught fire, others had to be treated with fire retardant, as therefore cannot be consumed.

Other vines survived and have produced a grape harvest, but the smoke has impacted the grapes, meaning they are not fit to produce the normal vintages.

READ MORE: Reader Question: Will French wine taste smoky this year after the wildfires?

Instead, some farmers, like Olivier Soler, will opt to produce natural, sweet wines instead.

The cooperative that Soler belongs to is willing to allow him to produce natural sweet wine instead, because the longer ageing period will allow for the smoky taste to be erased.

“The Opoul vines are normally destined to make Côte du Roussillon, a red wine. Any defect poses a real problem for the integrity of the wine.

“So we decided to use them for a natural sweet wine, which has a 24 and 36 month ageing process. If there is a defect, this length of ageing tends to erase it,” explained Jean-Pierre Papy, director of the Arnaud de Villeneuve cooperative to Franceinfo.

Even though the wine will likely not be bottled around 2025, it represents a way for wine producers to minimise some of their losses from the wildfires.

For most of France’s wine harvest, however, the grapes survived intact and experts say they will be no smokey taste – in fact growers in Bordeaux say that 2022 is shaping up to be an exceptionally good vintage

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French baguette gets UNESCO world heritage status

The French baguette - one of the country's most abiding images - was given world heritage status by UNESCO on Wednesday, the organisation announced.

French baguette gets UNESCO world heritage status

More than six billion baguettes are baked each year in France and the UN agency inscribed the tradition in its “intangible cultural heritage” list.

Reader question: How many baguettes does the average French person eat per day?

France voted on 2021 on whether to apply for the status for the baguette, for the distinctive grey zinc roofs of Paris or for the tradition of wine festivals – and baguettes were selected.

Now UNESCO has announced the latest addition to its intangible cultural heritage list, granting the status to the savoir-faire (known-how) behind the creation of the French bread and the culinary tradition that surrounds it.

Baguettetiquette: Weird things the French do with bread

A true baguette – known as un tradition – has just four ingredients; flour, water, yeast and salt and is baked in a steam oven to give it the distinctive crispy crust and soft interior.

MAPS How many Parisians live more than five minutes from a boulangerie?

The UN agency granted “intangible cultural heritage status” to the tradition of making the baguette and the lifestyle that surrounds them.

More than six billion are baked every year in France, according to the National Federation of French Bakeries — but the UNESCO status comes at a challenging time for the industry.

France has been losing some 400 artisanal bakeries per year since 1970, from 55,000 (one per 790 residents) to 35,000 today (one per 2,000).

The decline is due to the spread of industrial bakeries and out-of-town supermarkets in rural areas, while urbanites increasingly opt for sourdough, and swap their ham baguettes for burgers.

Still, it remains an entirely common sight to see people with a couple of sticks under their arm, ritually chewing off the warm end (the crouton) as they leave the boulangerie.

There are national competitions, during which the candidates are sliced down the middle to allow judges to evaluate the regularity of their honeycomb texture as well as the the colour of the interior, which should be cream.

But despite being a seemingly immortal fixture in French life, the baguette only officially got its name in 1920, when a new law specified its minimum weight (80 grams) and maximum length (40 centimetres).

“Initially, the baguette was considered a luxury product. The working classes ate rustic breads that kept better,” said Loic Bienassis, of the European Institute of Food History and Cultures, who helped prepare the UNESCO dossier.

“Then consumption became widespread, and the countryside was won over by baguettes in the 1960s and 70s,” he said.

Its earlier history is rather uncertain.

Some say long loaves were already common in the 18th century; others that it took the introduction of steam ovens by Austrian baker August Zang in the 1830s for its modern incarnation to take shape.

One popular tale is that Napoleon ordered bread to be made in thin sticks that could be more easily carried by soldiers.

Another links baguettes to the construction of the Paris metro in the late 19th century, and the idea that baguettes were easier to tear up and share, avoiding arguments between the workers and the need for knives

“It is a recognition for the community of artisanal bakers and patisserie chefs,” said Dominique Anract, president of bakeries federation in a statement.

“The baguette is flour, water, salt and yeast — and the savoir-faire of the artisan.”