Is Bordeaux Wine Facing an Existential Crisis?

Big changes to the industry have been proposed

A Bordeaux vineyard covered in snow
Bordeaux wineries are facing tough times.
Romain Perrocheau/AFP via Getty

It’s a challenging time to be a winemaker virtually anywhere wine is made. From wildfires damaging grapes in California to frost harming growers in France, the combined forces of the pandemic and climate change have raised new threats to many a vineyard. For wine growers in Bordeaux, a different set of conditions are prompting the discussion of extreme measures — including the transformation of part of the region’s wine industry into something else entirely.

That’s one of the biggest takeaways from a recent VinePair article by Nicolette Baker. This week marked the fourth installment of Vinexpo in Paris, a wine industry conference which featured representatives from 42 nations that produce wine. Among the subjects up for discussion was whether or not the French government would help finance the removal of around 37,000 acres of vineyards — or, per VinePair’s reporting, close to 10% of the region’s land dedicated to producing wine.

As The Guardian reports, the winemakers’ other goal is to have a significant amount of wine that’s gone unsold converted into industrial alcohol. There’s no word yet on how the government will respond to the requests from Bordeaux’s winemakers.

“The proposal comes as a response to overproduction in the region,” Baker writes. “It’s hoped that a lower supply will help to balance falling prices and inflated supply, which could save the region from economic collapse and preserve some 80,000 jobs.”

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That’s right, while the pandemic and climate change have had adverse effects on the industry, there’s another issue at work here: red wine consumption is down in France.

As The Guardian noted in its report on Bordeaux’s crisis, not every wine region has faced similar issues. Burgundy, for instance, has thrived as of late. But Bordeaux is facing a significant issue — and the industry that emerges from this crisis might look very different from the one that exists now.


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