Drink It or Distill It? A Reality Check
Discussions of whether the Old World or New World makes the better quality wine have raged since at least the famous 1976 Paris Tasting to debates on current wine forums. There is no doubt that the upper echelon of French wine has greater longevity and, to put it in simple terms “character”, than the top wines from other parts of the world. However for the majority of wine drinkers the top French wines are too expensive and in many cases, too difficult to acquire. And let’s face it, the average wine drinker does not have the desire nor the facilities to store these wines for the decades necessary to bring them to their best. But the French make millions of bottles of wine. Surely some of the stuff is drinkable? Maybe , but not when there is excess production and competition. Currently there is a proposal to distill 267 million bottles of Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) labeled wine; The proposal from the Confederation of French Wine Cooperatives — which represents 110,000 winemakers who account for half of France's wine production — would require the French government to ask the EU's executive commission for a crisis distillation. AOC producers in France have never before resorted to an EU crisis distillation. Part of the reason for this dramatic proposal is a reduction in wine consumption by the French as well as falling wine exports.
Meanwhile, in the New World, Australia steams on into fourth spot as a wine exporter, and increases national wine consumption to 26.9 litres per capita in 2002-03; it was less than 3 litres in the 1930s. Still behind the Europeans, but with the prediction that the USA will overtake France as the leading wine consumer by 2008, and with the US accounting for 30% of Australian wine exports, it is time for a reality check.