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French Wines Not Selling

Discussion in 'Off Topic [DB]' started by jazzbo, Apr 28, 2005.

  1. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Every Thursday the SF Chronicle has a wine section. This week's article discussed angry wine grap growers demonstrating in Narbonne, to the tune of 10,000 strong. It seems that the French wine industry has fallen on hard times for several reasons;

    - part of it's mystique is lost due to strong wine production in Australia, South America, the rest of Europe, and the US,

    - a global move toward the more fruit-forward, less acidic US counterparts,

    - poor marketing, in labeling and more,

    - and changing drinking habits in the French youth.

    While I will never claim to be an absolute lover or hater of any particular varietal or region, (I love good wine, regardless of price, value, origin, or varietal), there's a lot to be bummed out about regarding the status of French wine.

    While the French have often been elitist in their views on wine, they are the gold standard, always have been. Without them, Mondavi would never have gotten started. Further, many countries are elitist about those things that started with them, or that they simply made famous. I don't begrudge the French for their pride in wine.

    Personally, I'm not fan of the high alcohol, fruit-bombed concoctions that the US prides so much. Good wine is good wine, and can be found anywhere and in any style; but the depth of French style wines, the delicate structure, the complexities of terroir, all make them desirable. I believe that the current fad of California style wines is just that, a fad. And I implore the French community to not change what they do simply because of a fad. Keep the tradition of French wine making going, and struggle through this current fad. People will come back to a consistent and time-honored product.

    Further, do not change French marketing or labeling. While the labels can be confusing for a plebian interested only in picking up a Sauvignon Blanc on a Friday night because Miles from Sideways once mentioned that Sauvignon Blancs are good, sure, an easier label to decipher, that clearly spells out the variety is convenient, but the French were never selling a Sauvingon Blanc, they're selling a white Bordeaux. Honor that commitment to terroir and appellation. I will pursue a Cotes-du-Rhone, I will pursue a Haut-Medoc.

    French wine industry, do not go gentle into that good night.
  2. fraublugher


    Nov 19, 2004
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    music school retailer
    i reccomend "cawara" , an australian shiraz/cab/sauv blend , very good for the price.

    sorry gaston,

  3. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I can't say I have much of an opinion on French wines and their low sales, but... why did everyone fall in love with "Sideways"? I guess if you make a movie about California, wine, and midlife crisis, you basically end up pandering to movie critics. Man, what a boring, mindless movie. Paul Giamatti was great in "American Splendor", but that was set in Cleveland, and they drank beer.
  4. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    I don't want to delve into politics here, but many Americans haven't forgotten French opposition to (and obstructionism of) the war effort in Iraq. It's kind of hard to believe that a credible accessment of the decline in French wine sales could have failed to include this among the possible reasons. If you're gonna p**s off some of your best customers, you can't be surprised when they stop buying.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I think in Britain - there was a kind of snobbery about buying French Wine and in the 80s , we had "yuppies" buying masses of it, regardless of taste - just because it was the most expensive! :meh:

    I can remember in the 80s and 90s that there was much less choice than there is now - where every out of town supermarket has a huge range of wines from around the world, with lots of recommendations and information about awards etc.

    So, in the past, a way to guarantee quality was to buy certain French wines - but nowadays people are more inclined to try something different every time - and everybody knows all about French wine here - so others countries' products start to look more exotic and interesting...:)
  6. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    That hits the nail on the head, they are victims of politics. They may list this and that when they talk to the press, but in the boardrooms I'm sure the topic is how to win back American business.
  7. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    The idea of French wines as a sort of gold standard began with... the French ;-) And it's a fairly recent phenomenon, too, dating mostly to the period after 1911. And despite the talk about centuries old varieties, just about every varity of grape gown in France derives from the "post-phylloxera" species that were planted after the native species were destroyed- many imported from the US.

    There are marvelous wines to be found all over the globe.

    (BTW... "Sideways" isn't about mid-life crises; it's about alcoholism, something I missed until a friend initmately familiar with AA pointed this out. Even the name- "Sideways"- is a term from the recovery community that refers to a certain tyope of alcoholic behavior)
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I've always preferred Spanish wine and Italy in many senses, has a longer tradition than France....?
  9. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    After years of drinking French and Californian French-clone wines I was introduced to Italian and German and Spanish wines.. and discovered I like a lot of them better than what I'd been told to like ;-)
  10. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    That's my error. The article does actually go in depth about this. It's interesting, they're receiving phone calls in France saying, "I'm never gonna buy French wine again, but I will be collecting on my Bordeaux futures." And, champagnes still sell.
  11. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Interesting too as France was hesitant to accept US vines, even though the US had essentially "solved" the phylloxera problem. France hesitated for decades, even at the expense of possibly losing everything.

    But my point posting about the article isn't so much to say that France is the only wine out there, or necessarily the best; moreso just that I would like to see France consider it's current style of production, and ride out this difficult time, to maintain the integrity of its product.
  12. Personally, I've come to prefer Aussie wines over pretty much everything else. Some Canadian wines from Pelee Island and the Niagara peninsula are good, to my taste most French wines are over-rated.
    Gimme a Yellow Tail shiraz or merlot any time.
  13. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    On a related note -

    "The French Government announced yesterday that it has raised it's terror alert level from "run" to "hide."

    The only two higher levels in France are "surrender" and "collaborate".

    This may have been precipitated by the recent fire which destroyed one of their three White Flag factories (on the outskirts of Paris), disabling the entire ground combat element of their armed forces for the time being."
  14. According to grape growers in Australia, there is a worldwide oversupply of wine at present. Australia has over doubled grape production in the last ten years to cope with a boom market. Now that the market has settled and the makers have now stopped buying due to low demand, growers have to deal with the consequences. Many growers are harvesting this year only to dump the harvest back on the ground as mulch for the vines. Either that or contribute to the overburdened stockpile. Those makers that are purchasing are paying pitifully poor rates - its a buyers market. I imagine that all countries are in a similar position. :crying:
  15. bassphase

    bassphase Supporting Member

    Jul 26, 2004
    San Francico Bay Area

    All the more reason to purchase french wine and cheese!

  16. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    In other words, "Boycott California wines?"

    My friends tell me Virginia wines are worth a look.
  17. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    No thanks. I don't drink, and I live where they make the best cheese in the world (even if our cows aren't happy) Besides, I believe in supporting my own, be it business or country. "My country, right or wrong" sort of thing."

    I can't speak to the quality of French wine, but I have experienced French whine and I think it sets the gold standard, too.

    The way things are going, most wine will soon be produced at a factory in China, where it can be labeled with the name of your choice if you buy at least 5 cases. It'll be widely sold on ebay and scorned as "CCW" on TB forums. I sense that is what Jazzbo is concerned about
  18. Tom Hutton

    Tom Hutton

    Nov 22, 2004
    One thing that no-one has yet mentioned, presumably because the intricacies of European politics are of little interest to anyone, is the Common Agricultural Policy. This was designed in the early years of the European Union to ensure a steady supply of food following WWII and to give farmers a decent standard of living, through government subsidy. What it has become is a giant, bloated bone of some considerable contention, consuming at its peak 2/3 of the EU's entire budget (I think it now is about 1/2).

    Basically, it allows European farmers, and French farmers in particular, to continue running small, inefficient operations which are entirely supported by the state, instead of larger, more efficient farms as seen in the US and other countries. The CAP has ensured a vast amount of food and wine are simply bought by the EU to support small farmers, hence the butter mountains and wine lakes of the 1980's. Reform of the CAP, with considerable French resistance, is taking place, although not in regard to wine subsidies.

    I think this has allowed European wine producers to become complacent and uncompetitive in the face of a great many high quality "New World" wines, rather than reforming their business model to accomodate a changing market. Ultimately, either reform or severe price increases would be necessary for European wine producers to continue on their current tack without CAP subsidy.

    So, jazzbo, a question - do you believe that the quality of French wine is directly linked to its method of production, and would this quality be compromised by reform and increased efficiency? Also, if you think reform would compromise quality, would you pay to subsidise current methods of production in the form of significantly higher priced French wine?

    Don't get me wrong - I'm from Scotland, and I like the French and their wine, and I also think the French get a particularly raw deal here in the US in terms of public perception, but for the benefit of all Europeans I would like the CAP to be sorted out, so that the EU can spend its time and money on something other than propping up inefficient business.

  19. Well, this is rather understandable. Since the 1960's, every time the US and France are at odds (politically), each country's press launches a very effective smear campaign. As a result, Americans tend to think that French people are rude whiny cowards that lack personal hygiene, and the French tend to think that Americans are a bunch of brutes without culture.

    But we should know better than that. In my experience, people are the same everywhere. Yes, there are some cultural differences, traditions are different... but that doesn't really matter. We're all bass players on an international forum (even if there is a majority of Americans here), and we shouldn't allow political issues to divide us.

    Back to a more bass-related subject: the wine producers in the Bordeaux area usually rent out their chateaux for weddings, corporate parties, conferences, etc, so they provide a steady supply of tux gigs for local musicians like yours truly. :cool: FWIW, I haven't noticed any change in activity lately.

  20. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    So do they ask you to play "Stairway to Heaven" in Bordeaux?

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