Ten years is a long time but, as recent census figure are just starting to report, not so long that you’d expect a country to lose over a tenth of its vineyards. But that is proving to be true in the case of France, where it appears that the surface area of the country’s grape vines has shrunk by 11 per cent.
The comprehensive review was conducted in 2010, and the provisional results are just now starting to be revealed. France, along with Italy, is the world’s largest wine producing nation – with 788,700 hectares of vineyard.
The major areas where the vineyards are in decline are Provence, the Rhone Valley and Langedoc Rousillon. Sadly, the global wine crisis has hit many growers, forcing vineyard owners to uproot ancient vines and either sell the land or plant them with other crops.
The picture in the region of Cognac is not quite so gloomy, with sales and exports of eaux-de-vie at an almost all-time peak. The same is true in the areas of Champagne and Alsace, where soaring land prices and the simple factor of supply and demand, especially in Champagne, has seen the AOC enlarge the legal growing area.
Another interesting fact to come from the census is that the average age of a wine grower has not changed in the last decade. It remains at 52 years of age. However, the profession now has more female growers than before. But, rather worryingly, only six out of ten estate owners say they know who will take over when they retire, with only a third saying they have a family member who’ll succeed them.