Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Préfontaines, Cadeuil

French wine is usually associated with specified regions and prestigious châteaux rather than with ordinary, cheap table wine. Yet a significant share of the French wine production, mostly from the départements of Hérault, Aude, Gard, Gers and Vaucluse, still goes towards the production of the latter, even if the consumption of table wine has been declining dramatically over the past decades (while consumption of wine per capita in France reached 130 litres in 1954, it was down to 60 litres in 1990 and 57 litres in 2006, quantity being replaced by quality).
The rising demand for cheap wine was closely linked to the industrial revolution and the emergence of the urban working class. At a time when water had a rather mixed reputation, workers followed Louis Pasteur's advice ("wine is the healthiest and most hygienic drink") and the bottle of wine found its place alongside bread on many tables. Obviously increased wine consumption sometimes led to alcoolism; a problem Emile Zola described and analyzed with great accuracy in his tragic novel L'Assomoir.
While originally most of the table wine was sold under no specific name, by the 20th century the first brands appeared, developed by wine cooperatives or merchants. Their heyday was between the 1950s and the early 1970s, when wines such as Postillon, Kiravi ("the attractive wine of France"), Vin des Rochers ("the stomach's velvet"), Gévéor, Margnat or Préfontaines ("elegant table wine") dominated the cheap end of the market. The latter, Préfontaines, belonged to Dubonnet, who in 1951 built a brand new, highly mechanised bottling plant outside Paris. Within a few years, it was producing more than a million bottles a day.
In 1967, in a context of harsh competition and stagnant sales, several producers of table wine (Gévéor, Kiravi, Margant) formed the Société des Vins de France. Dubonnet's Préfontaines joined it in 1971. When Pernod-Ricard took control of Dubonnet in 1976, the group found itself with 45% of the shares of the Société des Vins de France. Nine years later it acquired additional shares to control what had become Europe's leading producer of table wine with, in 1985, 14% of the French market and a turnover of one billion francs. A few years later, in 1992, Pernod-Ricard sold the Société des Vins de France to its main competitor in that field, Groupe Castel, owner of table wine brand Castelvin.

Vin de table
Royan 15 minutes

Location: D733, Cadeuil, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 30/01/2011

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