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05.24.2008

How Much Longer Must French Wine Suffer?

There are stupid, corrupt, and morally righteous politicians everywhere. Americans need look no farther than their own legislators for proof of that. Just ask the folks in Illinois, who, thanks to some heavy lobbying by the state's liquor wholesalers with hefty donations to key representatives, will no longer be able to buy wine from anyone outside of their state on June 1st.

But no matter how much it sucks to be a wine lover in Chicago right now, the folks there are certainly in better shape than the French, who continue to suffer under the most asinine set of laws relating to the advertising and marketing of wine that you could possible imagine.

The latest setback for France occurred recently, as Microsoft AdCenter caved to political pressure and removed all wine advertising from its servers, scared, no doubt, of running afoul of a legislative re-interpretation of a set of laws passed in the early 1990's that effectively outlawed wine and spirits advertising.

This latest action represents only one more in a series of indignities that the wine drinking public in France has had to suffer at the hands of an increasingly strident and powerful anti-alcohol lobby and their legislative toadies. Recently, these same folks were responsible for the utterly idiotic requirement that any news article about wine carry the same governmental health warning that the actual bottle must display.

Is it any wonder that the younger generations of France are not only drinking less wine every year and they actually consider wine to be old fashioned and too expensive? While international demand for $3000 bottles of Bordeaux seems to be rather constant, the bulk of France's wine industry (namely the portion that is drunk by its citizens on a daily basis) is headed for a very bad future.

Sarkozy came to office proclaiming that he'd make reforms in the wine industry, but so far, none have been forthcoming.

So I ask you, wine lovers of the world and people of France: how long must France suffer? What is it going to take before winemakers are free to make the best wine they can; before Burgundy can suggest its wine is feminine without legal action; before a journalist can say that wine makes you feel good without risking the wrath of some government censor?

France needs another revolution. And America probably does too. To corrupt a little Shakespeare: "First thing we do, let's kill all the lobbyists."

Comments (9)

Wink Lorch wrote:
05.25.08 at 3:29 AM

Thank you, Alder for posting this and for continuing to write about these issues affecting France. The French wine industry as well as the wine drinking public really need us to write about this ridiculous situation, even if the Loi Evin was originally passed partly because ignorant French wine bureaucrats thought of it as no bad thing to stop large New World wine producers advertising on TV.

The media in France has now got so scared of even mentioning anything to do with wine or alcohol that on TV there are fewer and fewer news features, let alone educational programmes about wine to state just one example of what is going on there. After the ruling against Le Parisien, we were all wondering "where will this end?" Are they going to stop a James Bond film half way through to display the statutory warning when he asks for a Martini or a bottle of Bollinger?

Just as the USA is supposed to be the 'land of the free', so is France supposed be the country that believes in 'Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité'. What a sick joke this is for all of us who love wine and believe in it as a civilizing influence on the world.

Jason O. wrote:
05.25.08 at 11:55 AM

You are totally correct, though I would point out that a lot of this things you listed affect ALL wines European and domestic, which sucks. In fact, I think the stupid knee-jerk reaction to wine as some sort of "demon water" has come to a head and needs to be destroyed.

As far as French wines go the French are doing their part to submarine their own wines abroad. There's a very inconvenient French dock worker strike which now which is killing logistics and driving up shipping costs as wines sit on the dock or have to get rerouted through other European countries.

There's also the issue of the euro, which cannot be blamed on anyone in particular. My company does a bit of Direct Importing from French estates and we find that most of our winemaking partners are at least willing to meet us half way in absorbing money market losses and prices are only going up a modest amount. The French wines we buy from 3rd party importers are going through the roof, however, which leads us to believe that brokers, importers, and even distributors like ourselves are making a margin on money market differences. This, of course, compounds things tenfold.

It is sad, as you point out, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The problem seems to be at least forked. Dealing with different problems here in the US and in France is going to be difficult to say the least.

Javier Marti wrote:
05.26.08 at 12:19 AM

Not very encouraging news for the US! Who can be so cynical to obviate the fact that we are living in a Global society? Economic borders are old-fashioned and the proof is in Europe, where free trading is one of today's commodities. If your politicians keep this pace, the US will be not be the United States, but the Protectionist States. Secondly, I am not a super fan of French wines... in simple terms, it's either the unreasonably expensive wines for a small community who believe expensive is distinction or mediocre massive wine production for those still believing the myth that French wines are top. Let's face reality and let the French pay for their sins... and a bunch of good luck to consumers in the US!

Bill in Chicago wrote:
05.27.08 at 7:51 AM

As a side note:
As a Chicago wine drinker I am happy to report that Illinoisans can still buy wine from outside of Illinois and have it shipped to our door. The only hitch, it has to be from the winery. What you cannot do, under the new law, is order wine from a “retailer” outside of Illinois – sorry Wine.com. The law actually allows for Illinoisans to purchase up to 12 cases a year as long as it’s directly from the winery. Under the old law you were technically only allowed to ship in up to 2 cases annually (even though that part of the old law was practically un-enforceable).

As an Illinoisan citizen I am sad to report that your opening comments are right on the money – “There are stupid, corrupt, and morally righteous politicians everywhere,” in fact it’s an art form in Springfield, Il.

Betrand wrote:
05.30.08 at 4:06 AM

The situation is bleak indeed and the French lawmakers and judges seem to be good at shooting themselves (and us) in the foot.
We French bloggers seriously think of the prospect that we could face a Sharia-like French justice system for "apology of an alcololic beverage" by the only fact that we write about wine in our blog.
Any room in the US for a French wine freedom writer asking for asylum (considering I'll need a job too)? If we vote with our feet, I think that they'll understand at last...

CJ wrote:
05.31.08 at 1:27 PM

Think of the children! Adults need their delicious wine to handle them properly!

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