French wine is becoming a much less important part of the industry as craft competition increases

Europe’s wine business is booming, but France has suffered a wine “disaster.”

Given that the market is hot, this could be good news for all in an industry that receives the bulk of its products from France. And that may not be such a bad thing either.

Wine is in fact declining all around the world. Favorable terms under its labels can hardly make up for diminishing consumer appetite, particularly with so many craft wines competing in the market.

Gone are the days when French wine was synonymous with quality and pleasure. As Mr. Wadkins noted on CNN, young French consumers are saying they drink more wine than they used to.

“Less and less,” he observed, “every kid is going to be aware of French wine at any given point.”

So one of France’s biggest brands in the wine industry, Hermitage (not to be confused with Rhode Island’s Hermitage) is ceasing production in France and considering bringing production in the United States.

There is a true prestige in the small winery within a family. For decades, Hermitage’s heirs have decanted their wines, blanched the grapes, then pumped them into oversized bottles by hand, using the latest in high-speed equipment. This tradition might now go the way of wines that had been vinified by apprentices for centuries.

Hermitage, meanwhile, is currently the toast of the U.S. industry.

The Rhode Island winery already has some of Hermitage’s wines on its shelves and is planning a big expansion there, considering no longer producing wine in France.

“Because of the high cost of buying Hermitage wine [in France],” Wadkins reported, “this is another step they are making to increase profitability and to make a bigger impact on the market here.”

Rhode Island has the potential to become a powerhouse in wine production in the near future. For New Englanders, Hermitage, better known as “H.D.” for short, has become a kind of symbol. Now that the label has a brand name, the next frontier for the company and the industry it represents is to spread that brand name well beyond New England to markets all over the world.

The state of Rhode Island has had a wine industry since the 1800s, but the collection of wineries and vineyards in the Emerald State is only the second-largest of all states in the country, behind California. By the time Hermitage expires, Rhode Island should have developed not just a strong brand name, but a wholesale distribution system that will allow smaller family wineries in the state to profit from it.

Representatives of the company are working on a plan to expand its reach for several years, and the pipeline for investing in other large producers of luxury wines looks promising.

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