Friday, July 08, 2005

8 July 2005 - Independence Day

The USA's Independence Day has just passed and France's Independence Day (aka Bastille Day) is less than a week away. What does this have to do with wine? More than any other wine-producing/consuming country, we are linked to France. France provides so many of the benchmarks upon which we have modeled our wines -- especially Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone and Champagne.

As wine producers and consumers, we Americans are catching up. Fifth to France's second in production. Fiftieth to France's third in consumption. That's right -- 50th to 3rd. Not even close, you say. And you would be correct, just looking at the bare numbers. USA per-capita consumption of wine has crept up to nearly 10 liters annually. I don't recall what our per-capita soda and beer consumption is, but I know it's at least ten times our wine consumption. France, on the other hand, consumes about 50 liters of wine per person annually. Impressive. Except when you consider that less than a generation ago, per-capita wine consumption in France was more than 100 liters annually.

French wineries are bemoaning a drastic reduction in exports. The weak dollar certainly has a lot to do with it, but France, the country that taught most every other western nation how to eat and drink, is deeply concerned that it is falling behind the upstarts from the southern hemisphere, especially Australia and Chile, when it comes to world wine domination. Meanwhile, USA wine exports, while still pretty small, grow every year. Just like the number of McDonald's, Subway, Pizza Hut and Burger Kings worldwide.

What are French youth drinking if it's not wine? Soda, beer, American cocktails. What are they eating? Big Macs. It's ironic -- we're obsessed with the "French Paradox," and French youth are getting fat on Big Macs. Not that we're trimming down, mind you. Nope, we're just as obese as ever -- it's just that the French are catching up. Fast.

What is it? Are the French saying to themselves, "Those Americans are starting to drink more wine and eat better food, so we should do the opposite just to be our usual contrary selves.?" I think not. I hope not. Is it a side effect of globalization that we gradually blend together so that all of our distinctively wonderful differences disappear? I'll think about it, as I finish off this bottle of Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone '03 "Les Deux Albion."


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