French alcohol producers had a bad year. With restaurants and bars closed for two months during the pandemic, the industry suffered from low sales at all levels. Sales of champagne fell particularly sharply and people did not drink high-end wine, like Chablis, in the same quantities as usual. This means that a lot of wine has remained unsold, sitting in the cellars of wine producers across France.
A program has been supported and funded today by the EU and, as The Guardian reports, 33 distilleries have been authorized to collect 2 million hectoliters and turn it into ethanol to make a hand sanitizer. (One hectolitre is equivalent to 100 liters).
FranceAgriMer, the country’s agricultural agency, said that there were around 3 million hectoliters sitting in cellars that had to be turned into hand sanitizer due to low sales – the wine must be removed to make room for this year’s harvest.
Winemakers can join the program before June 19 and will be paid € 78 per hectolitre for PDO wine and € 58 for non-PDO wine. PDO wine is one that is linked to a specific area, made with very specific guidelines on the type and quantity of grapes allowed in each bottle.
Wine producers have been reassured that their wine will not be used to make alcoholic beverages.
Industry is also fighting new export tariffs for wines sold in the United States – the World Trade Organization recently decided that the United States could legally apply these taxes to wine imported from France to compensate for unfair subsidies granted to the competing European aircraft manufacturer Airbus. with the American manufacturer Boeing.
France is now out of isolation and bars, restaurants and cafes reopened on June 2, under strict regulations. Tables must be spaced more than a meter apart, no more than 10 people are allowed at a table, and waiters must wear masks at all times.
Paris remains under stricter controls where people are only allowed to eat and drink at outdoor tables – the mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has allowed locals to take to the streets as long as it does not irritate local residents and other companies.