More cash for French wine marketers

Related tags New world Cabernet sauvignon Chardonnay Terroir

French wine producers have been granted more money by the Paris
government to help them advertise and promote their wines and
combat the increasing threat from New World wines and other
alcoholic and soft drinks.

France's Agriculture Minister, Herve Gaymard, earlier this week confirmed that there would be a 50 per cent increase in public funding for the wine industry, despite his government's ongoing opposition to the widespread advertising of alcoholic beverages in the domestic market.

After last year's heatwave-hit harvest came in well below par, France's wine producers are expecting output in excess of 1.5 billion litres for 2004, but are finding it increasingly hard to find lucrative markets for their output.

The domestic market has been ravaged by the weak economy and a clampdown on drink driving, and while France's wines still have a quality reputation in many foreign markets which is second to none, this is much less so in some of the more mature - but still hugely important - markets such as the UK and the US.

So an increase in the promotion and communication budget to around €15 million will certainly be welcomed - but the money will have to be used wisely. A large part of the problems facing France's wine industry relate to image - increasingly fusty and old-fashioned compared to New World upstarts such as New Zealand or South Africa - so simply paying for more advertising space will not suffice.

With so many wine-producing regions, each of which have their own promotional budgets and visions, presenting a united front in foreign markets, especially those which are relatively new to wine consumption such as Japan, is vital if potential wine drinkers are not to be put off by a plethora of messages.

And preserving foreign markets for French wines is becoming increasingly vital. Figures published in the French newspaper La Tribune​ last week show that France's total wine exports reached 1.78 billion bottles in 2003, while New World vintners exported 1.93 billion.

But the news of a bumper harvest will not be welcomed by many marketers, as this tends to lead to a reduction in both quality and price, further adding to French winemakers' woes.

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