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France: If you can't drink it, wash with it!


Jesus may have turned water into wine, but French distillers are performing another miracle: Turning surplus wine into alcohol for hand sanitizer products.

Falling wine exports and flat domestic consumption—both attributed to the coronavirus lockdowns—have left French winemakers with a surplus of wines that can't be stored for other years; the space is needed for new production.

Thirty-three distillers have been licensed to collect the wine and distill it to ethanol, with the output reserved for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry to use in producing hand sanitizer.  

The project is being financed by EU public funds, which will compensate wineries for each hectolitre (100 litres) converted. Up to two million hectolitres are covered, although wine industry experts say the surplus is three million hectolitres. Vintners will get €58 per hectolitre, or €78 if the wine is labeled for a particular region.

Spain and Italy have undertaken similar measures, as well as preventing surpluses by destroying excess grapes before they become wine.

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