Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is some French wine really from Spain?

France has the third-most acres of vineyards in the world, according to the United Nations, behind Spain, which has a whopping 25% more vineyard acreage than France, and China.

But France and Italy produce more wine than any other countries; they swap the No. 1 spot back and forth, depending on vintage. Despite having many more vines, Spain produces much less wine than France "produces," according to the official stats -- anywhere from 25 to 50% less, depending on the vintage.

The astute reader will have noted the use of quotes in the previous paragraph around a single word that is not actually a quotation. Here's why.

Spain's bulk wine industry is the largest in the world. And guess where it sells the most bulk wine? That's right, France. Spain sells twice as much bulk wine to France as it does to Germany, its second-biggest market.

There's no doubt about what happens to Spanish (and Italian) bulk wine in Germany: it's boxed up and sold in supermarkets as Spanish (and Italian) wine.

Where does all that Spanish bulk wine sold to France go?

I want to thank my friend Aimée Lasseigne New, assistant manager at Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit in New York, for asking me this question. 

Last year, angry French winemakers sabotaged tanker trucks of Spanish wine coming into the country, opening the valves and letting wine flow onto the highway. The protesters claimed that the Spanish wine would be mixed in with South American wine and sold as such.

Maybe. But look at those numbers again.

Could tanker trucks explain how France "produces" much more wine than Spain despite having a lot less vineyard acreage?

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Zzzz said...

This is an ongoing problem and I agree with the principle of the saboteurs, although not with their actions which have gone from headline grabbing to just plain thuggish, especially in Sete, France where they flooded the town with wine.

I have indeed seen these Frenchy-Spain wines in supermarkets in France. French name on the front, "Vin d'Espagne" on the back in the smallest font required by law. It's unfortunate on many counts, but the Spaniards need to knock this shit off as it makes getting anyone to take the actual quality of Spanish wine seriously extremely difficult as 99% of consumers focus on its very friendly price point, which is barely manageable in most instances.

This was previously seen in olive oil which was being exported in bulk to Italy and then sold as 'Italian EVOO". Spain produces excellent raw materials, but can't market them the way France and Italy have. Has a lot in common with much of Africa that way. Why do we keep buying "Belgian" chocolate when the beans are originating in Côte d'Ivoire.

But with the wine, it's very frustrating to watch as I live on the corridor through which all of this is happening.


W. Blake Gray said...

Thanks Miquel.

Do you think all that Spanish bulk wine is winding up labeled as Vin d'Espagne?

Scott said...

Regarding less hectares but more production in France. Clearly 1ha of bush vines on the Spanish meseta is not the same as 1ha of vine in the ultra productive pays d'oc.

Scott said...

Also wanted to add that though comparatively small on the list the Spain -> Portugal flow is interesting. Many box wines available in the supermarkets, from branded bag in box to basic Tetra Pak wines will often read something like 'Wine of the EU' (I forget the precise wording). This wine is almost certainly from Spain.

Zzzz said...

No, not at all, there's still a tremendous amount of it drank in Spain! I forget what the statistics are, but people buy huge amounts by the jug and it often rivals bottled wine sales in some regions. That stats can be hard to come by at times as it often falls outside of the DO statistics.

I think that's the real problem in that while cooperatives appeared in post-Phylloxera times in both Spain and France, France had the pedigree wines which allowed the market to pull itself back up much faster. In Spain, the pull out of cooperative wines has only been in the last 20 years and so there's this established market of large, bulk wine which was already there. Indeed, regions like La Mancha have compounded upon it but even "classy" regions like Priorat, there was essentially nothing bottled until the 1980s. Hope all that makes sense as I'm compressing a couple of issues from the 20th century.

The real issue is that it needs to stop but people have gotten hooked on the relative ease of selling it and the reliability of it.


W. Blake Gray said...

Looking down the chart, the US sending bulk wine to Italy is also interesting. I wonder what happens to that juice.

Jack Everitt said...

When I travel in the UK, I'm always amazed at seeing "US" wines - almost all that I've never heard of. Yeppers, bulk. And that's what the people of the UK think of when think of American wines; bulk stuff they've drunk. Third tier wine.

Bob Rossi said...

Miquel's mention of olive oil is very appropriate. The olive oil labeling system is totally corrupt. "Product of Italy" can mean olives from all over the Med trucked to Italy and bottled there. And I believe it's totally legal.

Anonymous said...

anyone know about the canadian bulk wine coming to the us? where it is going? why?