Bumper harvest puts wine industry in crisis

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The Independent Online

French vintners held crisis talks with the Agriculture Minister, Herve Gaymard, yesterday as the wine industry braced itself for more trouble, this time a bumper harvest.

French vintners held crisis talks with the Agriculture Minister, Herve Gaymard, yesterday as the wine industry braced itself for more trouble, this time a bumper harvest.

For years, French vintners, particularly those in the Bordeaux region in the south-west of France, have watched demand for their wine, and consequently the price, fall.

Supply this year, is expected to be extremely high: it is predicted that France will produce in the region of 5.66 billion litres, 2 per cent more than the average production in the past five years.

The over-production comes at a particularly difficult time. In the past 24 years, the consumption of wine in France has dropped by 20 per cent, due in part to government campaigns to fight alcoholism and drink-driving. There is also tougher competition from New World wines, which overtook French wines in global export markets for the first time in 2003.

A powerful alliance of wine-loving law-makers is demanding the lifting of restrictions on advertising and a range of other measures designed to boost consumption.

A White Paper to be presented to the government next week will call for a "balance between public health priorities" and recognition of wine as an "exceptional product" that is part of the nation's culture, said Philippe Martin, a conservative deputy who helped to draft it.

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