France Needs to do More to Protect its Wine Culture
As the French government is being urged to ban all online promotion of alcohol, attention is being drawn to the wine-making capital and the confused relationship with its leading product.
France already has strict laws governing the sale and advertising of alcohol, last week though , a report suggested that it should be removed from social media sites. The report’s author, Professor Michel Reynaud, believes that social media glamorises alcohol in the eyes of young people.
This be difficult to enforce though, firstly the scale of the operation would be huge, the report wants to go so far as to ban blog mentions. Secondly, it has stirred a strong sense of defiance, angry winemakers have staged protests across the country.
France has become a European leader in forcing its population to get back on the wagon. The Loi Evin law, named after health secretary Claude Evin, was initiated in the early nineties and has since seen alcohol removed from cinema and TV, as well as place harsh restrictions on bars, restaurants and tobacco companies.
Why is there a need for these server measures though? When the UK introduced 24 hour licencing, the appeared intention was to encourage a continental style café culture. Lighter regulation aimed to promoted responsible drinking, but based on France, surely the opposite is true?
In reality, France has an image problem, a good image problem. The French are perceived worldwide for having a moderate, relaxed drinking culture, when they can be just as boisterous as the rest of us.
They are Europe’s fourth biggest boozers, just behind the Irish. More worryingly, the figures for alcohol related crime far exceed ours, it is responsible for over a third of deaths on French roads.
Elsewhere in Europe, wines elevated status among other beverages means that it is still seen as an occasional luxury, and has not been hit by our continuing efforts to sober up. Because wine has always been an integral part of French culture, it has not been exempt from changing public perceptions. For many years, wine consumption in France has been in freefall.
These latest proposals will be a step too far for France’s beleaguered winemakers, the home market is shrinking every day, being made no more attractive by law, taxes and supermarket bullying. Therefore they need to hold on to what they have, maintain their cultural significance, and seize hold of the growing export market.
They cannot do this if they face an online gag; wine is a highly sociable topic, and people just love to talk about it. If wine is to remain distinguished among lesser booze, we need to keep sharing and deliberating.
Professor Michel Reynaud is wrong. Talking about drink is what separates drinking from getting drunk. Without good conversation, are we not just drinking for the sake of it? And is that not what he stands against?
France’s strong wine culture is what adds value to every bottle they produce. It is something that needs to be protected, not punished.