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NewsletterAugust 2004

What have I learned lately?

  • The Brittany region seems to be the most popular travel destination this year for the French. This is attributed to the heat wave of last year. Brittany typically enjoys a mild summer, and isn't considered overcrowded, like the South of France.
  • The French now drink 50% less wine on average than 40 years ago.

Down on the (French) Farm

This year was a banner year for hay. My brother in-law just harvested over 440 bushels. Not only did he harvest a lot, but the hay is also a very good quality.
Thanks to all the rain and sun, this year's wine harvest should be bigger than usual. The weather pattern in Burgundy over the last few months: few days of blue skies followed by rain, then blue skies, again followed by rain. Such weather is great for growing hay and wine grapes.


It now appears that no hate crime took place on a Paris commuter train on July 10th. A woman alleged she had been robbed, marked with swastikas and her baby stroller overturned by a group of 'North African' looking youths. Why the supposed attack that shocked France: assailants believed she was Jewish. All was an elaborate lie by the alleged victim. Motivation? It's thought she wanted to get out of debt and or attract attention. The woman has a history of repeating stories others tell her or she hears as truth; Also a record of reporting fictitious crimes to police. Her mother stated she is sick and needs medical help.
Then the scandal became the political reaction. How most of the leading politicos in France were quick to take to the air and denounce the alleged crime, without waiting to verify the accusations. Most ran to the nearest TV camera or microphone, condemning the attack. It is now known that by the night of the alleged event investigators had doubts if the attack really happened.
At the end of July Marie-Leonie Leblanc the woman who made up this story, was given a four-month suspended sentence, ordered to receive counseling and put on probation for two years.
There were a couple of reasons why this story caused such shock in France. First, the story had it that no one came to the woman's aid and second, because of a rise in hate crimes against Jews this year. There's been almost as many in the first part of this year as all of last year combined.
This event also did not help already strained Jewish-Muslim relations. France has the largest Jewish population in Western Europe and a large number of emigrants from Northern Africa, mostly Muslim. Over the last few years the number of clashes, between the two groups has increased. Most incidents are related to the on going Israel-Palestine conflict.

French Wine

It's been reported often over the last few years that the French wine industry is in crisis. The crisis being that French wine just isn't selling like it once did. A few of the reasons given are: over-production (this year production is up 20%), 'New World' competition and a decline in French consumption. Based upon what I've heard and seen here in Burgundy things aren't all that bad. Yes, the export market isn't what it once was; a lot of New World wines are just as good, if not better than comparable French ones. But still French wines are holding their own and a wine producer is still one of the best ways to live off the land. My brother in law, who produces wine, recently started exporting to the United States. He sells about 1,000 bottles, not a large amount, but an increase.
Related news story - French Winemakers Hold Crisis Meeting.

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