Monday, November 23, 2020

France's changing vineyards

In a recent post, I discussed Germany's changing vineyards, as an example of an Old World wine-producing area that has changed considerably since 1960, in terms of both vineyard area and grape varietal composition. Previously, I had also discussed Australia's changing vineyards, as an example of a New World wine-producing area. In this third part of the series, I briefly look at France, as another example of an old-established vineyard area.

As before, the data come from the Global megafile, National 0920 spreadsheet file of:
Anderson, K. and S. Nelgen (2020) Which Winegrape Varieties are Grown Where? A Global Empirical Picture (revised edition). University of Adelaide Press: Adelaide.
These data consist of the estimated growing areas for each of 263 grape varieties, for each decade or so from 1960 to now — 1958, 1968, 1979, 1988, 2000, 2010, 2016. Sadly, the data for the first four years are severely limited. The data totals appear to be complete, but there are individual data for only the same 31 varieties for each of these years.

That is, most of the varieties are simply lumped together under "Other red varieties" and "Other white varieties", which account for 25–65% of the vineyard area (this varies between the four years). This clearly affects my ability to analyze at least 23 other varieties (all of these have high values in the final three years); and it also seems to affect at least another 25 varieties, but to a lesser extent.

France's changing vineyard area

So, I cannot perform all of the analyses that appear in my previous two posts. In particular, there can be no analysis (except for the three final years) of the Diversity Index, or of the Network of grape varieties. This is why I presented the analysis of Germany first — I could at least do it properly.

However, we can look at two aspects of the time-series data, as shown by the two graphs.

First, note (in the first graph) that there has been a continual decrease in total vineyard area in France over the past 60 years. This amounts to 635,000 hectares, which is 44% of the area covered in 1958. Most of this decrease occurred before 1990 (37 of the 44 %), but the decline has slowly continued since then. This slow recent decline matches the slow decline of the German vineyard area over the same period.

Overall, this is a massive decrease, especially compared to other countries in Europe, and I have not seen it commented upon much in the media. This decrease has, as far as I know, been mainly among the so-called "country wines", rather than occurring in the prestige vineyard areas. There is plenty of bulk wine in the world, but the French staunchly maintain that their premium areas are unmatched elsewhere.

France's changing vineyard composition

Second, we can note (in the second graph) a change in the composition of the varieties through time. The national vineyard area is dominated by red varieties (the red line), as we might expect, although this can vary a lot locally. However, there was a slow increase in the reds until 1990 (and a corresponding decrease among the whites), followed by an on-going reversal since then. Indeed, the whites now occupy a greater percentage of the area than they have at any time time in the past 60 years (34%). Perhaps the French are slowly coming to value their white wines, as has the rest of the world?

It is sad that the data do not allow me to analyze this latter trend in any more detail.