PARIS — Forget about things improving with age. Some officials here are saying French wine needs to be made more appealing to their not-so-vintage countrymen.
Lawmakers said Wednesday that young people in France needed better education on the tradition of wine drinking, according to a report aimed at getting the country's storied but struggling wine industry back on track.
Declining consumption at home coupled with a dwindling demand for French wine abroad has pulled the wine industry into crisis over the last 10 years.
France remains the world's most wine-thirsty country, the report said, but average consumption per person has dropped from 26 gallons, or about 423 glasses, a year in 1970 to 15 gallons, about 234 glasses, in 2003.
"To be French is to know wine," said lawmaker Philippe-Armand Martin, coauthor of the report, which advocates educating and courting youth as means to increase consumption.
"That's not to say baby bottles should be filled with wine," Martin said, but he suggests steering young people "toward a moderate consumption of our quality wines."
Vie Libre, an association of reformed alcoholics, said it was shocked by the report -- especially by the idea of bringing a marketing message into schools.
"Vie Libre believes there can be no question of inciting minors to consume a product to which 10% of adults have an addictive relationship," the group said in a statement, adding that it planned to protest to lawmakers, teachers unions and parents federations.
The report contended that wine, in moderation, could have health benefits. But only 37% of young people ages 17 to 25 reported liking wine, and 92% preferred another alcoholic beverage, the report said.
The lawmakers said young people were forgoing wine's "health benefits and tasting pleasure" with a desire for higher alcohol content. Martin and co-writer Gerard Voisin, both members of the conservative ruling party UMP, cited a 2005 national survey that linked decreased wine consumption among youths with an increase in drunkenness.
To boost sales overseas, the report proposes an international campaign promoting the "originality and superiority" of French wine. Sales of wines from China, the U.S. and Australia have inched up in the last 10 years, edging out French producers. In France, a government crackdown on drunken driving in recent years has also hurt sales.
Chronic overproduction has compounded the problem, sending surplus wine to the distillery to be boiled down to pure alcohol. Until last year, so-called crisis distillations were only for the cheapest table wines. Last year, quality wines joined the ranks of wine that was distilled.
To try to keep prices steady, the European Union has resorted to paying vintners to destroy billions of bottles each year -- the EU distilled 740 million gallons of wine in 2005.
Other recommendations in the report include revamping vintners' training, simplifying bottle labels, classifying wines by three sweeping categories and creating two national departments in charge of wine and its exportation.