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FRENCH WINE MAKERS FACE SOBERING PRICES
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FRENCH WINE MAKERS FACE SOBERING PRICES

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After a decade of superb vintages, bountiful harvests and high prices, France's wine makers are sobering up in the 1990s.

The global recession has trickled down to the most prestigious wine regions - Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne.The dizzying prices of the 1980s have crashed amid a surplus of stocks, declining consumption and foreign competition.

The winner is the wine drinker, who can buy good wines at good prices for the first time in years.

``If someone wants to begin to buy wine now, the recent vintages are down 30-40 percent from what was first asked,' said British wine expert Stephen Spurrier.

That's bright news for wine lovers. But it spells gloom for this charming village in Burgundy's Beaujolais region.

Growers wonder if the Virgin Mary, venerated locally as protector of the wine harvest, has abandoned them.

``We've had difficult periods before, but none like this since the 1940s,' said Jean Dutraive, a fourth-generation vintner.

Efforts to boost prices have failed. Dutraive resigned after eight years as head of the Beaujolais Winemakers Union in August when growers rejected his plan to cap production and cut price-killing surpluses. Facing heavy debt, growers vowed to produce as much wine as they could.

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