Talking Europe

Reaching the bottom of the barrel: Coronavirus pandemic batters European wine production


It's an ancient beverage turned cultural icon, so cherished in France that the legendary Victor Hugo once provocatively wrote: “God made only water – but man made wine”. Aside from being a staple at many family dinner tables, wine is also a massive European industry – and one that’s going through its own coronavirus-induced crisis. This in a sector that was already battling against 25% tariffs imposed by Donald Trump in 2019 that have seen exports slump.


Up to one third of French vineyards are believed to be in potential danger - in a sector that employs around 700,000 people in France alone.

FRANCE 24 has been investigating how winemakers have been coping - as some say they might end up forced to give up altogether. 

Vincent Bouzereau, winemaker: "I think we’re going to have to pick up the pieces. We are all going to pay. I always say to my children, 'we can always tear up a vine, and put sheep out to graze, and then we can eat the sheep'.”

"We are farmers - that’s where we began, as farmers."

Aubert Lefas, winemaker and secretary-general of the Bourgogne winemakers confederation warns that small family vineyards will go under as they do not have the resources to pay for wages and outgoings.

"If their land is valuable, they’ll be sold to big international groups, that’s what happens in Burgundy. We’re going to lose a part of our heritage. People will lose their jobs. We’ll lose the know-how, the savoir-faire that goes with our trade. 

"That’s one of the fears: that the French savoir-vivre, the French way of life - and wine is just a big part of that as is food - that could disappear.”

This report by Xavier Chemisseur, Stéphane Bodenne and Luke Brown.

Measures co-financed by the European Union. 

This publication reflects solely the work of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use made of the information contained therein. 

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