"Wine as a daily thirst quencher, it’s over" : how the sector is adapting to the drop in consumption

Faced with competition from beer and new consumption habits, the Occitan vineyard is adapting. Organic, quality, diversification, less alcohol, promotion of rosés and whites or why not canned wine… The lines of thought for a sector that has not said its last word.

It’s a fact, the French are drinking less and less wine. From 120 liters per year and per inhabitant in the 1960s to less than 40 liters today. A pace that will continue to accelerate in the years to come.

At the time of “dry January” (the month of January without alcohol), the wine industry, which employs more than 500,000 people in France and nearly 100,000 in Occitania, is worried: “This drop is considerable, especially since since 2018, the profession has had to collect the Trump tax, then the health crisis and now galloping inflation where consumers often make trade-offs against wine”regrets the Hérault winemaker Jérôme Despey, secretary general of the FNSEA.

Consumers want to know how winemakers work

The case is heard: “Consumers want to drink less but better”, slice Philippe Richaud, cellarman in Uzès, whose brother, Jean-Michel and their cellar Treasures of the vines was distinguished cellarman of the year by the Revue du vin de France. This grandson of a winegrower continues: “Consumers want to know how the winegrowers work, what is their history, that of their terroir and their territory, what are their values”.

We are at the antipodes of daily consumption, even in schools. Younger generations drink much less wine. “Wine as a daily thirst quencher is over. And the deconsumption of wine is done in favor of other drinks, especially beer”notes Jean-Louis Cazaubon, vice-president in charge of agriculture in the Occitanie Region.

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The stakes are colossal in the region of the largest vineyard in France and its 250,000 hectares of vines. But the sector is organized to avoid the worst: uprooting. The Bordeaux vineyard should pull out 10 to 15,000 this year to preserve the balance of a tight market. “We must do everything possible to avoid it in Occitania and we have reason to believe in it”assures Jean-Louis Cazaubon.

World consumption increases by 2%

An optimism that Jérôme Despey wants to share: “The export market is picking up very strongly with global consumption increasing by 2%. We need to gain market share. We have a budget of €270 million to achieve this and we have great qualities to achieve it“.

To cope with this dizzying fall, the sector is adapting. Organic is gradually becoming the rule. “We must continue to move upmarket, develop wines around €5, improve work on AOCs and transform table wine into varietal wine, more in line with demand”underlines Miren de Lorgeril, Aude winegrower, at the head of the Interprofessional Committee of Languedoc wines (CIVL).

The professional knows that the future of wine depends on “the lightness and the aromatic power. And then our region must push hard on the rosé, we do not know enough that we are the first region of France, it is a trump card”. Professionals don’t forget the whites “light with less alcohol. And above all we have to find solutions to prevent inflation from hitting the price of our wines”insists Jérôme Despey.

“A new wine adventure”

But to stop the crash, it will also be necessary to look towards these products decried by gourmets. “There must be no taboos. The market for wines in cans is developing strongly, we must be able to offer them while also preserving the qualitative aspect of our appellations and supporting the great successes that pull everyone up”argues Jean-Louis Cazaubon.

So many qualitative arguments shared by the president of the Millésime Bio show. Jeanne Fabre is the fourteenth generation of winemaker in Languedoc, in the Corbières. She relies heavily on “organic, which protects health and the environment, increasingly strong demands”. It also proposes to develop the offer in the cellar and in direct sales: “It is our guarantee of resilience. It is above all the wines in supermarkets that collapse”.

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And in line with the proposals of the wine merchant Philippe Richaud, she insists on the fact of giving to discover our jewels. At the Château de Luc, Jeanne Fabre offers “a range escape, a terroir stroll and an epic of the Midi wine region”. She is now thinking of developing a treasure hunt: “I have more than doubled this activity, we must offer a new wine adventure. All projects, all initiatives are welcome”she assures.

Because quality alone will not be enough to preserve jobs, yet France in general and Languedoc in particular have the greatest assets to remain the world reference for wine.

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