“French wines no longer hold their place on the world stage.” So wrote my esteemed colleague in the previous entry. All that he wrote is valid to one degree or another but France has a problem that goes beyond marketing, beyond quality, beyond changing global preferences in tastes. Matt Kramer, writing in the Sept. 15, 2004 Wine Spectator, notes a fanatical increase in government intervention, control, and regulation that dictates what grapes are used from what areas and how much of which grape can be produced on a given parcel of land. The impact of this has not been to increase quality and demand but to decrease demand and prices of Bordeaux wines to about half of what they were just three years ago.
James Suckling, writing in the December 15, 2004 Wine Spectator notes what I believe to be the greater issue at this time. In Suckling’s words; “...the biggest reason for the decline in Bordeaux wine sales has to be the image of France in general–particularly with Americans. It’s not the fault of the producers–wine is not on the agenda when decisions on global politics are made. But political and social issues have accelerated Bordeaux’s fall.”
Indeed, somewhere between 15 and 25% decline of France’s wine sales to American are directly attributable to their animus towards the United States. I can personally vouch as anecdotal evidence that my own expenditures on French wine since 9-11 have been a very scant fraction of what it would have been under different circumstances. Where France would have been my first point of reference and investigation of what new wine is “hot,” I avoid France altogether as a matter of course which explains the oblique reference to this in my recent review of Chateau Plaisance. Americans are odd; we will bicker and fight amongst ourselves but may the good Lord take a liking to anyone else who dares to come against us. If France does not get their politics in order where the U.S. is concerned, I predict financial gloom and doom for all but the most prestigious of Frances producers.