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Brave words from French minister (but little detail)

Published:  23 July, 2008

In his opening speech at Vinexpo 2005, Dominique Bussereau, the French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, promised robust measures to defend [France's] position in international markets' but stopped short of outlining any new initiatives.

'France's position as a market leader is today under threat,' he said. 'Competition is getting tougher on export markets, and the market share of new producer countries has doubled in the past ten years. & Producers can no longer make wines that meet statutory demands of quality. They must go out and meet the consumers.'

Bussereau went on to say that 'restructuring our offer' and investing in extra promotional activities was crucial. 'To this end INAO and ONIVINS have been working together on a joint proposal. The aim is to segment the offer of French wines into two product categories: on one hand the wines that have a strong link with a specific region or terroir; on the other the products that will respond more quickly to changes in the market and the needs of different categories of consumer and different styles of consumption.'

Bussereau did not say however, whether this meant expanding and relaxing the regulations covering the vin de pays and vin de table categories (the most likely result) or the creation of a new 'second tier' below AOC, such as the now defunct proposal to introduce a cpages de France category (allowing both varietal labelling and inter-regional blending). He also gave no timetable as to the introduction of any changes decided by the two French regulatory bodies.

Bussereau went on to outline plans to reduce the area under vine, with the INAO having now recommended that the authorisation for new plantings be reduced by 25% in comparison with last year, three times less than in 2001/2002.

He added that the government is now asking each interprofessional body to present a solid strategy outlining how it plans to adapt to the AOC, vin de pays or vin de table market. '[Our wines] do not always appeal to new consumers, who are frequently looking for simpler wines, easy to drink and readily available. France needs to go out and conquer these new consumers and take full advantage of the potential growth of expanding markets,' he said.

France exported 14.2 million hectolitres of wine in 2004, worth an estimated €5.4 billion.