France’s beleaguered wine industry is giving the government a headache.
Paris is torn between promoting public health and supporting French wine, which has been hit hard by competition from “New World” rivals such as Australia and South Africa and become less fashionable at home.
Less than a week after deputies from the National Assembly lower house proposed wine adverts should be more colourful to boost sales, senators from the upper house say they want bottles to have labels warning pregnant women of the dangers of alcohol.
Opposition Socialist deputy Jean-Marie Le Guen said the conservative government’s policies were incoherent.
“One day, the parliamentary majority is dismantling the Evin law (on wine ads), the next day the government says it wants to establish a consumer warning on all wine bottles,” he said.
French wine exports fell 3.4 percent last year, hit by factors such as France’s row with the United States over the Iraq war and the rise in the euro against the dollar, which made French products more expensive abroad.
In a wider cultural shift, wine is no longer the automatic drink of choice for many French. Producers put consumption at 58 litres per head in 2002 against 100 litres in the early 1960s.
The proposals from the assembly sparked a week of intense media coverage that put Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy under pressure for appearing to have turned a blind eye to an idea that many see as running counter to public health concerns.
Douste-Blazy has since made clear he is strongly against relaxing the advertising rules. He backs the labelling idea.0