French uprooting scheme falls far short of its goals

by Hervé Lalau

In 2004 numerous French producing regions launched an uprooting programme to reduce the overproduction of wine. Regional and state incentives up to 15,000 Euros per hectare in Bordeaux - were proposed to the growers to grub up their vines.

Figures show that their reaction was, at best, mitigated. In Bordeaux, the vintners' organisation had set an objective of 10,000 hectares; to date only 1,800 have been effectively uprooted - and the scheme seems to attract ever fewer willing participants. Of these 1,800 hectares, 1,400 were pulled out in 2005. Only 400 were grubbed in 2006.

At 23,000 hectares, the uprooted surface is much larger in Languedoc-Roussillon, but there also, one notices a decrease in activity in 2006, with only 10,570 hectares being pulled compared to 12,400 the year before. In all other regions, the numbers are only symbolic. Together, the uprooted surface will be only 2% of the vineyard total and have little or no influence on the French production potential.

The growers representatives say that "uprooting is a traumatic action, a symbol of failure". Further, some think the crisis is only temporary and that France might just as well keep its vineyard as it is. Those persons seem to forget that the original idea was also to rid the country of its poor quality vineyards. The French appellations speak about terroir and quality, but still readily admit that not all soils merit their prestigious names.

As elsewhere, poor producers often take advantage the few good estates\' efforts and think only in terms of volume. Uprooting for them means not only loosing immediate revenue, but also allowing your neighbours take your part of the cake. The "cake", though, is not expanding. According to the French Ministry of Agriculture, the average winegrower\'s income fell by 14% in 2006.

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