French winemakers to turn unsold wine into sanitiser

French winemakers will transform wine that went unsold during the country’s two-month coronavirus lockdown into hand sanitiser and ethanol to make room for the next harvest.

During the coronavirus crisis, with lockdown closing bars and restaurants, the sale of wine plunged leaving winemakers with millions of litres of unsold wine.

As exports and domestic sales fell drastically during the crisis, government agency FranceAgriMer said around three million hectolitres needed distilling.

FranceAgriMer said that 33 distilleries had been authorised to collect two million hectolitres of unsold wine to transform it into ethanol or hydro-alcoholic gel in order to free up room in for this year’s production.

Given the green light by Brussels, the EU has said it will finance the distillation.

Winemakers have until 19 June to apply for the scheme and state how much wine they wish to transform.

Government agency FranceAgriMer said that 33 distilleries had been authorised to collect and help transform two million hectolitres of unsold wine. (Eric Cook, Unsplash)

Those who do take part will be paid €78 a hectolitre for wine linked to a specific region and €58 for those that are not.

The alcohol resulting from the distillation is to be exclusively reserved for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry and the production of hand sanitiser.

Didier Josso, the head of FranceAgriMer’s wine branch said in a video conference: “The distilled wine will not in any case be used for the production of spirits.

“There will probably be a need to stock ethanol as well, but the quantity will be less significant than for wine.”

Some Burgundy winemakers have already donated bottles to be auctioned later this month in support of the region’s hospital staff.

Spain and Italy have also resorted to similar measures to regulate the excess brought on by the reduction in sales.

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