Wine Talk

Snooth User: Philip James

French youth are the anti American youth

Posted by Philip James, May 5, 2008.

For years wine consumption in the US has been on the rise, particularly with the under 30's. Yet in France the reverse is happening. Since 1980 annual consumption fell from 120 liters per capita to 55 liters! French youth are now even turning to "bottled water, sodas, and juices":

Top 5 reasons the frogs are switching?

1) Wine is Traditional/Old
2) Strong Anti-Alcohol Sentiments
3) Don't Like the Taste of Wine
4) Good Wine is Too Expensive
5) Wine is Confusing

Honestly, I'm floored by this all. Would never have expected to read this.


Reply by Sung, May 5, 2008.

What does "Strong Anti-Alcohol Sentiments" mean? Have they been watching that terrible Invention show?
And Don't like the Taste of Wine? What are these guys on?!

Reply by Philip James, May 5, 2008.

"several of the interviewees referenced the strong anti-alcohol movement that has been in effect in France since 1991. The campaign has been very successful at decreasing drunk-driving, and includes commercials against drinking, as well as stiff fines, warning labels on bottles, and prohibitions on alcohol advertising via television or radio. This effort is to be lauded as very successful, and one which other countries may want to model. The impact on wine consumption though has been particularly strong -- as wine is the primary alcoholic beverage of France. Now many of the young adults say they prefer beer or cocktails to drink in a nightclub or bar. One person commented, "Beer has lower alcohol than wine, so I usually buy beer in a nightclub."

I guess the French government is trying to stamp out drinking, or at least changing the spin on it.

Reply by Sung, May 5, 2008.

I find it interesting though that Anti-Alcohol means Anti-Wine versus other kinds of alcohol. Cocktails don't tend to have less alcohol than wine and in terms of beer, people tend to drink a larger volume of beer therefore, end up with the same alcohol content.
eh...whatever makes them feel better...i don't think it makes much sense and on top of that, it's Wine?! They are French?! Isn't that some kind of sacrilege?

Reply by Mark Angelillo, May 6, 2008.

Yeah this is really interesting. Is it rebellion? "Don't like the taste of wine"? I'm confused by the french youngins. I definitely feel like wine is an industry with a lot of older fans, but that doesn't make me want to eschew it, but rather embrace it.

Reply by sdelong, May 7, 2008.

Yes counter-intuitive but their leaders aren't so hot on wine either. Jacques Chirac preferred beer and Sarkozy is a tea totaler!

It's a long way from the days when the average French man drank 2 bottles of plonk a day.

Still, there are a few brave young French fighting in the Resistance:

Viva la France!

Reply by Philip James, May 7, 2008.

Steve - I actually just encountered the Wine Rendezvous video blogs yesterday - they looked pretty fun.

Reply by Stephen, May 7, 2008.

I think the 1991 law you are referring to is the Evin Law. While I suppose I can’t argue with its results, the extremes to which it has been taking is rather absurd. Recently Heineken lost a court decision and as forced to take down beer ads from its French website - extending television restrictions to the web. And if that isn’t crazy enough, a French newspaper, Le Parisien, was sued under the same laws for writing an article on Champagne that was too praising and therefore, it was argued, in violation of the restrictions set forth in the Evin Law. Le Parisien lost and such articles are now required to carry health warnings.

I understand why some advertisements have been banned (Joe Camel ads, hard liquor sponsorships of Nascar, etc.), because of their potential influence over children, but the Evin law has been taken to the extreme. I’m also pretty sure that the government finally realizes that and is addressing the matter.

Reply by ryanopaz, May 8, 2008.

Still go to France and you see wine everywhere! Not to mention that visiting France is so nice because you have so much variety and choice. Small regions that will never get exported are everywehre. We'll be in Central France in 2 weeks and I think a few bottles will be consumed! Maybe we can make up for the decrease in consumption! ;)

Reply by Philip James, May 8, 2008.

Go for it Ryan. You've a lot of drinking to make up for the 65 liter shortfall!

Reply by muddyrudder, May 11, 2008.

just for the record i think bottled water tastes gross!

Reply by muddyrudder, May 11, 2008.

I can understand that people would be against smoking, but wine? Come on! Drinking in moderation, whether it be wine, beer or liquor can be beneficial to your health! Smoking however is not good for your health in any way, even in moderation. Of course some of us from the north would argue that Nascar in moderation could even be hazardous to your health!

Reply by Sung, May 12, 2008.

Next thing you know, they'll be giving up cheese!

Reply by Philip James, May 12, 2008.

Watching Nascar or participating? The latter would kill me before the first corner

Reply by muddyrudder, May 12, 2008.

Yeah and then after giving up cheese they will start to bathe and shave! Pretty soon we will have no reason to make fun of the French!

Reply by Philip James, May 13, 2008.

Luckily there are 192 other countries to work our way through!

Seriously though, I'm still floored by the fact one of the countries that produces some of the greatest wine in the world has seen its consumption drop by over 50% in the time that in the US wine has gone from strength to strength.

This surprises me even more so considering that the US has so many factors slowing wines growth: arcane distribution laws, interstate shipping regulations, drinking age 3 years higher than europe, strong anti alcohol sentiment from prohibition etc.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, May 13, 2008.

Philip - The same thing is going on in a very strong way in Italy as well as Argentina (look at the last 25 years statistics consumption statistics there - its unbelievable). I would suspect Spain, Portugal and other southern European countries are also seeing this effect.

The drop off is not among the "greatest" wines, it is not even among AOC wine. Its the billions of liters of Vin de Table and Vin de Pays plonk that have been replaced by the much broader array of drinks choices on the market. In the 1950s, they had water (which was unsafe in some areas... and, as the French proverb says, might lead to rust) and wine to drink. North of Paris (and near Belgium) was beer country, but in the rest of France, one could find and only wine. Even fresh Milk was scarce (and still is - witness the staggering array of Parmalat-type concoctions in a French supermarket).

In the last 50 years, there's been the introduction and explosion of bottled water (Evian, Vittel, Volvic, Perrier, etc), Coke, Pepsi, Fanta, Fruit Juices, Orangina, Beer, etc.

Add that to the generational themes (wine is old and for grandparents) and health themes (the French are obsessed with health/wellness - no country has more pharmacies per capita after all) and you have a recipe for falling wine consumption. Will it fall to 0? No. Honestly, I'd be surprised if it even got with 10 litters per year of the US figures in our lifetime. It is approaching a floor and that's a good thing. It means that soon the impact of French consumers clamoring for better wines will be felt by the rest of us.

Reply by Philip James, May 14, 2008.

I remember being chastised by my Euro relatives in the South of France, when at the age of 16, dared to order water with my lunch. I was indeed told, that it would "rust my insides".

You are right, though, that even with the drop off the French are consuming 55 liters per capita per annum, which is still 4 or 5x the americans consumption

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