France’s national drink has found itself unwillingly in the headlines in recent months. After a turbulent few months and plenty of media coverage, the debate surrounding wine’s place in French society has finally abated.
Last month saw Emmanuel Macron attend the Paris International Agricultural Show where he professed to enjoying a glass of wine with both his lunch and dinner. It has been a while since France has had a wine loving president: Chirac preferred beer, Sarkozy was a teetotaller and Hollande never really expressed an opinion. Macron even demonstrated his talents at a recent blind tasting where he successfully identified a Bordeaux Blanc and a Coteaux d’Aix en Provence. The président de la république took the opportunity at the agricultural fair to reassure the population that he would not be tightening the Evin law that restricts advertising on alcoholic beverages. Named after the minister of health Claude Evin who proposed the law to parliament, the Evin law prohibits alcohol advertisements on television or in cinemas. The law requires all advertisements to make clear that alcohol abuse is dangerous to one’s health. Appealing to the French citizen’s love of wine in typical Gallic fashion, Macron used the words of his predecessor Georges Pompidou: “n’emmerdez pas les français”. We’ll leave you to translate…
His comments were a reaction to recent remarks of Health Minister Agnès Buzyn on the dangers of alcohol and came at a time when the country was anxious about the implications for their beloved national drink. Many French citizens feel Buzyn unjustly targets wine in her alcohol awareness campaigns, a dangerous move in a country that views it as a pillar of national identity. France has in fact seen a dramatic decrease in alcohol consumption in the last 30 years that is concurrent with an increase in spend. In short, the French are drinking less and spending more, especially when it comes to wine.
Much to everyone’s relief, the matter finally came to a close with the recent publication of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and Health Minister Agnès Buzyn’s “25 Key Measures in French Preventive Healthcare Policy”. The principle new measure concerning wine is an enlargement of the pregnancy health warning that currently features on the label. Buzyn has drastically softened her previous stance on the matter and a recent interview with the Health Minister revealed that her campaign has taken a different tack: her objective, she said, is to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol and not antagonise.
The debate certainly raises interesting questions on how to reconcile a drink that is deeply engrained in French national culture and heritage with what we know today about the dangers of alcohol abuse. At iDealwine, we salute the Minister’s decision to place an emphasis on prevention through awareness, especially towards pregnant women. Demonising a product almost as old as humanity itself and reducing it to a mere alcoholic drink serves no useful purpose. Rather, we should continue to celebrate its fascinating intricacies and long cultural legacy with an emphasis on moderation.
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