Europeans turning to cheaper bottles

France is no longer the undisputed leader in the world of wine. New winemaking countries are also emerging, and France is starting to face difficulties in marketing its wines. This year France is uprooting 16,000 hectares of vines in an attempt to cut back production and overcome the crisis. Those in the know say it is a hard year for the French as Europe turns to cheaper wines. Meanwhile, in Greece, problems are multiplying. Already, large bottling companies have said that they will not take large quantities of wine from growers because they still have stock in reserve from last year, which has helped bring prices down even further. There are many reasons for the crisis. For starters, certain producers insist on growing varieties no longer in demand. Also, wine is being imported from countries where grapes are far cheaper. More red wine is being consumed now than white wine, a turnaround from previous years. Consumption has kept falling in recent years – one of the first surplus expenses to be cut in times of economic troubles. Some observers believe the crisis will be short-lived, resulting from the increase in wine production last year coupled with the lower-than-expected consumption during the 2004 Olympic Games. Not much Greek wine was consumed during the Olympic Games nor was there any effort to promote it and acquaint visitors with it. In many areas of Greece, French varieties are grown at a far greater cost than in neighboring countries, which makes the future of Greek wine look less than rosy. The problem of wine consumption and low prices for growers again this year was raised at a meeting held last week by the Vine and Wine Professionals’ Organization, or EDAO, a body for collectives associated with grapes and wine. Sources say EDAO will make a proposal to the Agricultural Development and Food Ministry about simplifying grape juice production in order to find an outlet for some 30,000 metric tons of grapes, and to establish bioethanol production from the unwanted byproducts of grapes for use in fuel. Another proposal for using up surplus production is expected to spark strenuous opposition from ouzo manufacturers. It involves allowing only Greek alcohol to be used in the production of ouzo, though it is much more expensive than the alcohol from the US they currently use.