As much as I adore France and everything they gave us all gastronomically it is in beverages too that others have also caught up by emulating their genius especially in wine and champagne. I was looking at the protests last year where angry French growers were being quite militant against wine imports from just across the border in Spain not letting wine laden trucks enter. Millions of French bottles also had to be destroyed by their government creating wine lakes again just to keep prices at a level where producers can earn a living.
This is the cost of a global economy and agriculture is one of the biggest victims of the free market. Nothing compares to the great champagne houses for me though and I love a glass of top class bubbly like Cristal as much as anybody else but when I see and taste how good the sparkling wine from other countries is never mind the price being a fraction of the posh French stuff then it is hard to spend so much while the world is in a cost of living crisis. It is sad to see hundreds of years of viniculture craft being jeopardized in this way and the farmers have every right to be upset when their livelihood is being decimated.
It is the ultimate compliment to have a product emulated worldwide and winemakers from France have actually gone and worked in the new world to help foreign growers perfect their wines. Indeed some of the big French Champagne names have even invested in the new world brands because they are so good like in New Zealand for example where soil and climate can rival the Champagne region itself.
This has made the competition even stronger and some of the sparkling wines I have tasted from say New Zealand like the ones from the Marlborough region have been scooping up international awards. There is no room for shortcuts though and the reason French bubbly is always still so expensive is the sheer detail in the manufacturing from handpicking the grapes to the very fine art of the blending.
Hence no one else can call their bubbly champagne with the name protected under law but there is no mistaking that some of the new world stuff is as good as some of the old world vintages. The costs of producing it are so much higher of course in France than elsewhere and with the exclusive brands known worldwide it is also a matter of hard earned reputation, pride and prestige for the French.
The canny Italians and Spanish with their Prosecco and Cava have been hot on the heels of their Gallic neighbours too with their very own bubbly. Again with prices so low that one really cannot ignore them and the taste can often be fantastic. They dominate the top list of most sparkling global wine sales and the Italians especially win the most medals in the wine contests.
Even the Germans drink more bubbly than the French these days. Another forty countries are producing sparkling wines now so the market is pretty flooded with everybody drinking fizz. All this leaves the deflated French with an ever decreasing world marketplace for wine that they once dominated, at the high end anyway.
In the last twenty years the new world has really gotten its act together and we have not even mentioned north or South America and Australia.
Even other parts of the old world have to be reckoned from say Eastern Europe which is also getting in on the wine act, I have tasted some amazing wine from say Greece and Croatia. Where does this leave the French then? Well it has to be back to the drawing board about what to do about one of its great industries. It is good keeping the name champagne for their best in class bubbly but if the world’s wine drinkers are switching to other countries for their fizz then their bubble could well and truly be burst.