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Wine decline would be enough for France’s grape gurus to see red

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“WINE makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized,” the French wine writer, Andre Simon, famously wrote.

He would be appalled at the latest data from France’s national statistics agency Insee, which show people there are consuming less and less of their nation’s trademark tipple — as younger generations prefer beer.

The French still spend slightly more on wine, but what used to be a predilection for reds, whites, and rosés has all but evaporated compared with the heady highs of half a century ago. In 1960, the earliest records Insee has, wine accounted for 44% of drinks spending, while in 2018 it was only 18%.

Between 2010 and 2018, the share of beer in the drinks budget of households rose without interruption to reach a 29-year high of 13%.

Wine consumption is suffering as the French spend less on alcohol in any form. That, according to Insee, can be explained partly by government campaigns in the 1990s to discourage daily drinking, which particularly hurt some cheap wines. Overall, the share of alcoholic beverages in drinks spending declined to 60% in 2018 from 78% in 1960.

A renaissance of alternatives isn’t helping. For an aperitif — a pre-dinner ritual for many French people — beer is now the preferred drink, the statistics agency said.

“Since 2010, beer drinking started to rise again, driven by artisanal and fruit-flavored beers that have created a more diverse supply and changed the image of the product,” Insee said.

The French still drink more alcohol overall than the European average. Citing Eurostat statistics, Insee said the country is eighth in Europe in terms of total quantity of pure alcohol consumed annually. — Bloomberg

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