2020 Hasn’t Been a Good Year: France to Make Hand Gel From Unsold Wine Under EU-Funded Scheme

The shift in production will help replenish supplies of hand sanitiser, save the wine sector from wasting the remains of last year’s harvest, and create another source of income for coronavirus-hit producers.

French winemakers will turn unsold stock into hand sanitiser and ethanol to empty tanks for the new harvest, the farming union FranceAgriMer has said.

As of Friday, 33 distilleries are been authorised to collect the wine for distillation, a process required to separate alcohol from water, the head of the agency’s wine branch, Didier Josso, told reporters.

Winemakers will have until 19 June to apply for the scheme and indicate the amount of wine they want to distil. They will be paid 78 euros ($88) per hectolitre if the wine is certified as coming from a specific region and 58 euros ($65) if not. One hectolitre is equal to 100 litres.

France’s wine industry is estimated to have a surplus of three million hectolitres, after exports to the US halved due to Donald Trump’s 25-percent import tariffs since October and then demand elsewhere fell because of the shutdown of bars and restaurants amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The European Union will finance the distillation of two million hectolitres, Josso confirmed.

“The distilled wine in no case is to be used to make spirits,” he said, as quoted by AFP. “There will probably be a need to stock ethanol as well, but the volumes will be less significant than for wine.”

Some winemakers in Australia and Spain, two other major wine-producing nations, have already started transforming their excess stock into hand gel. Italy’s farming association has asked the government to allow winemakers to turn excess wine into sanitiser; it hopes to collect and distil between 1.5 million and 2 million hectolitres of wine and hopes to get a green light by the end of June.

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