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Wine and the Internet in France

I've often decried the pig-headed idiocy of the French government in its persistent cowing to the lobbying interests of puritanical organizations like National Association for Prevention in Alcoholism and Addiction. Here in America, corporations have our government in their pockets. In France, it's the anti-alcohol zealots, who nearly succeeded in getting the government to ban web sites about wine from the internet (thankfully, some common sense prevailed).

And people wonder why per capita wine consumption has plummeted by 50% in France over the past decade according to some sources?

Consequently, I was quite intrigued to read a study that was recently sent to me by an organization called SOWINE, which polled over a thousand French citizens ages 18 to 65 on about their information consumption habits when it comes to wine.

Here are some of the results that the French government should really be paying attention to:

70% of consumers think wine should be treated differently than other alcohol.

63% of consumers think of themselves as "neophytes" when it comes to wine.

But 61% think that some level of knowledge is important to appreciate wine, and 78% believe it is important do do research before buying (14% currently use the Internet to do that research).

Roughly 28% of the population reads blogs or bulletin boards, and of the population that do, roughly 21% read blogs about wine.

Twice as many people use the Internet than print media when it comes to researching wine (though the vast majority report relying on friends and retailer recommendations as their primary source of advice).

60% percent of the people who do research about wine online end up buying.

In the face of such data, it's quite surprising that a country that depends so heavily, both economically and culturally on wine would still be debating a topic like, say, whether there ought to be wine appreciation classes available for college students (who can all drink legally by the time they get there at age 18).

Those against such classes suggest that it will lead to binge drinking, which is as reactionary as people suggesting that teaching football in American schools will lead to an epidemic of concussions.

Hopefully, intelligence will eventually prevail against ideology, but the track record of the French government when it comes to wine isn't particularly encouraging.

Comments (8)

Arthur wrote:
05.01.10 at 5:45 PM

"as reactionary as people suggesting teaching football in American schools will lead to an epidemic of concussions."

I would recommend using another analogy. There is verifiable imaging evidence that playing football *does in fact* cause concussions and permanent (deleterious) functional changes in the brain.

That said, I agree that the French are getting a little silly with these restrictions.

Mike Tommasi wrote:
05.02.10 at 6:36 AM

To be fair, consumption of wine here in France and Italy has plummeted because 50 years ago consumption was way too high, plus government efforts to educate people not to drink and drive are having a huge success.

Even though I love wine, I do not believe the alcohol in wine is any different, it kills people through road accidents and cancer in the same way as other alcoholic drinks.

Intelligent wine consumption necessarily involves drinking less, and drinking better wine.

Yes the laws restricting potentially restricting wine blogs are stupid. But remember that the laws here are not like laws in the UK or the USA. Just because a law exists does not mean it will be enforced. A "decret d'application" is required, defining how each law gets enforced; most of the thousands of laws in France are sitting there without a decret, so people can simply ignore them. That's what french wine bloggers are doing. And it is legal :-)

Bertrand wrote:
05.02.10 at 12:42 PM

You're quite right in pointing the strange shoot-in-the-foot policy in place in France for years in the matter of wine, but the blame is not to put only on the highly visible elected officials.
Speaking of the anti-wine actions in France, they don't necessarily represent the French Gov' position.
You have to know the French ways : an elected government doesn't really fully governs and decides in France (maybe it's the same in many countries by the way), it has a portion only of the real power.
The real power lies in some non-elected institutions who have the can levy on the French public : the media, which is not very diverse and/or not very courageous, the administration in charge of applying the trillion of laws that have been created along the years (most of its staff, both high-ranking and ordinary never changes along the governments and they can pick up a law they interpret to pursue their agenda, regardless of the will of the people), the "associations" which are not elected but in front of which the elected representatives are scared because of their potential support through relentless media coverage, the unions (not so important in these alcohol topics), and the French judges who are also never submitted to the vote and are very biased in their application of the huge number of French laws that they also interpret according to their whims.

Remember the seeds saver Kokopelli, a non-profit group fighting for diversity and selling ancient French vegetable varieties, which was sued and heavily fined by the French judges some time ago. If the judges responded of their actions in front of the people, things would be very different.
( Kokopelli story : http://trutherblog.blogspot.com/2008/03/no-strain-no-gain-eu-fines-heirloom.html )

Another association which is very influent is the one fighting for road safety and for more anti-alcohol laws, they have elected people and the government run for cover and say yes to all their repressive wishes in matter of speed control and anti-alcohol (and anti-wine) repression.

I think that the government shares more blame for letting the hygienists of the European Union endanger the rich French cheese traditions, and not countering their agenda.

Alder Yarrow wrote:
05.02.10 at 2:05 PM


I used that analogy quite deliberately, knowing that sometimes football DOES cause concussions. Just as some people are binge drinkers. The rational cure for binge drinking is not keeping people ignorant of wine, anymore than the rational cure for concussions in football is keeping people from playing it.

Wink Lorch wrote:
05.03.10 at 11:55 AM

Alder, thanks for posting this - I'd love to see the original report in French (can't seem to find it on SOWINE's site).

As ever, the French are frustrating. On the one hand, there have always been French at the cutting edge of technology. On the other hand they may well have a greater number of (internet) technophobes, especially amongst the vignerons, than anywhere in the western world. So many seem to think that if they paid someone to create a website in 2006 then that's it, they have an internet presence. And, as for the concept of social media, there's a steep vineyard slope to climb there. And, yet, there are SOWINE's figures staring us in the face saying that the French want to learn more about the wine - about time ;) - and they want to do it through the internet/blogs ... sometimes, I do despair!

Peter wrote:
05.03.10 at 3:59 PM

With all due sincerely meant respect (as I think your blog is great) you're simply wrong on the football analogy. The most recent studies are showing that even the routine but repetitive hits in football do in fact result in long-term damage including undiagnosed low-level concussions. Serious consideration is given to modifying rules within the NFL and other leagues to continue to further reduce the frequency of helmet to helmet contact. In other words, they just don't come from those hits highlighted on SportsCenter. It's possible based on the studies to date that concussions are essentially unavoidable in football. Bryant Gumbel's Real Sports on HBO has done excellent work on this.

05.04.10 at 1:20 PM

Who would have thunk a simple little analogy would have stirred up a hornets nest? Ok so I indulge in extreme hyperbole on occasion. Mostly I fall asleep reading your blog...not that it isn't vastly informative and exceedingly well done, I am just a bit ADD in my blog preferences. I need a little more stimuli with my information. Le Sigh, undoubtedly a nasty byproduct of my years watch Sesame Street. It was all so very colorful and multi-faceted! ANyhow, thank you for your insights.

SOWINE wrote:
05.05.10 at 8:53 AM

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