French facing wine bottle shortage

We hear about the ongoing problems besetting the French wine industry -- erratic weather, overproduction, mounting global competition, regulatory battles -- but a new one is being felt: A bottle shortage.

"The issue is glass supply. We have a big problem, we cannot get bottles to put our wine in," said Jean-Claude Mas, director of Domaines Paul Mas, which sold nine million bottles of wine from the southern Languedoc region last year.

In an interview with Agence France Presse (AFP), Mas was asked about his plans for lighter, eco-friendly glass bottles and packaging he had spoken about last year.

"It is not a question of lighter or not" anymore, he said. "As of this month, for my top selling white sauvignon blanc wines, I have zero glass stock and an order for 36,000 bottles. I have no plan B."

The problem of bottle supply has been a nagging one for French wine producers across the board, according to AFP, "but in the Languedoc, where wine sales are picking up rapidly after a slump at the beginning of the millennium, the issue now appears more critical. Another Languedoc producer with supply problems said he was ready to move bottling to Britain.

"I have bottles all right. I had to commit to requirements of two million bottles this year," said David Rowledge of Alchemy Wines, a Britain-based company that sold 1.7 million bottles of Languedoc wine last year. But he is still without the particular bottle he needs for his white wine.

"The other option is to get bottles from China, and that's not eco-friendly at all," Rowledge said.

Several months ago, Castel, another major French producer which produces at least 110 million bottles of Languedoc-Roussillon wines annually, said if glass bottle supply problems continued it would consider a move to PET plastic bottles.

"The situation has not changed," said Franck Crouzet, Castel communications director, at Vinisud. "We have been told there will be supply problems in 2008 as there were in 2007."

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