French wine consumption drops by three billion bottles

June 26, 2011
Daily Telegraph

French wine consumption has dropped by three billion bottles to just four billion - the equivalent of one bottle per adult each week - in two generations. Researchers fear the culture of wine drinking is being lost in France, with younger generations less likely to savour a bottle over food and more prone to drink simply for pleasure.

They are also less aware of its cultural significance to France.

Just 16.5 per cent of the French population are now regular wine drinkers, according to research from the ESC Pau research centre and Toulouse 1 Capitole University.

Regular consumption over meals has been replaced by the French drinking wine occasionally rather than frequently, often on nights out.

This has occurred within the last two generations, according to researchers Pascal Poutet and Thierry Lorey.

In a study in the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, the pair looked at successive generations and their approach to wine drinking, dividing the demographic into four groups.

The oldest was those over 65 years who had lived through the Second World War, followed by those between 40 and 65 who lived through a period of growth and worldwide development.

Those 30 to 40 - "Generation X", who grew up through the French crisis of the 1990s, were next, followed by those under 30 - the internet generation.

"Each successive generation represents a general increase in libertarian attitudes and irreverence towards institutions", says Dr Poutet.

While all agreed on the value and 'bon homie' of drinking wine, it was the over 65s who most linked it with French heritage and were more likely to drink it daily and share the experience.

The middle groups are much more occasional drinkers and drink more socially with friends rather than family, and social status is a factor in their wine consumption.

But for the under-30s, wine consumption is very much the exception rather than the rule.

Dr Poutet said: "There is a dual gap between the three generations, older, middle-aged, younger - on the one hand, the consumption frequency gap (from a daily wine consumption to a festive one, and then exceptional), on the other, the pleasure gap (evolution from a genuine pleasure towards a more ostentatious pleasure, more difficult to perceive for the younger generation)."

The younger generations may still take pride in French wine but have little awareness of its cultural place in French history, he said.

He explained: "The generational analysis of the representations of wine in France does seem to be appropriate to explain the deep changes that wine has undergone in the last 60 years.

"It is precisely the progressive loss of the identity, sacred and imaginary representations of wine (nation, region, lesser importance of the transmission of the culture of wine by the father within the family, etc) over three generations that explains France's global consumption attitudes, and especially the steep decline in the volumes of wine consumed."