The French Protest Proposed Stricter Wine Rules
Big changes seems to be afoot for the wine industry in France. A suggested amendment to the public health bill 'article 24' would outlaw all 'free alcoholic drinks with the intention of promotion.' This would put an end to free wine tastings in France, the famous en primeur barrel tastings in Bordeaux and the internationally-attended Vinexpo wine exhibition and all other activities involving wine tasting would have to be paid for by the tasters. Article 24, if approved, could be set in place by January 2009. There is also currently a ban on wine advertising on the internet in France and proposed tax increases on wine (wine ads are banned on television and print ads cannot show people drinking wine, beer or liquor).
As you might imagine, the wine industry is up in arms over this. Demonstrators recently took to the streets of the wine producing areas such as Bordeaux, Sancerre, and Cognac in protest. The largest demonstration took place in Bordeaux where the signs listing the names of the wine growing appellations were covered with the word "censure."
Anti-alcoholism groups and the French Health Ministry are concerned about the rise of binge drinking among French teenagers and the government has proposed raising the legal age for buying alcohol to 18 from 16. It may seem startling to some in the U.S. but in Europe, children often learn about wine at the family dinner table. The wine industry though feels that wine is not the problem and that curtailing the industry strikes at the very core of French tradition and industry. It bears noting that France's President Nicolas Sarkozy is a known teetotaler.