France needs to get behind its wine industry

What is it with French politicians? Are they nuts?

I’m referring to the way that they seem to be hell bent on damaging one of the things the French do best: making wine.

France is blessed by some of the best places in the world to grow wine grapes. It makes some of the world’s greatest wines. Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, the Loire, the Rhone… that’s just for starters. And because of the concept of terroir, no one else can make these wines.

France should be proud of its wine industry. And the politicians should do all they can to support and promote French wine. It’s a no brainer. Play to your strengths.

But instead we have the Loi Evin. The law that massively restricts the ability of wine producers to advertise their wines. There’s even talk about expanding the Loi Evin to ban writing about wine. So no more French wine bloggers; no more French wine journalists. How crazy is that?

Advertising is an important element of brand building, so the Loi Evin is hindering those who’d want to build strong French wine brands. And France needs strong brands, because without them there is no profitability at the commercial end of the wine market.

7 comments to France needs to get behind its wine industry

  • These questions and these issues have been going on for 20+ years now and it goes from bad to worse in France, and not only because of marketing issues. The anti-alcohol stance and the health lobby is really strong in France (sometimes it feels not much different to the neo-prohibitionist stance in the USA) and there is almost certainly pharmaceutical company money behind them.

    A few years ago the editor of La Revue de Vin de France wrote an excellent editorial demonstrating the increase in sales of anti-depressants in France (I believe per capita the biggest consumer of these drugs in the world) directly correlating with the decrease in wine drinking.

    Your questions are asked daily by all the vignerons and all who love wine in France. So far, despite actions from pro-wine campaigning group Vin et Société, for example, not much improves.

  • What Wink said.

    It really is very depressing. I thought it might improve with the transition from Sarkozy (teetotal) to Hollande (allegedly a wine drinker) but it seems in fact to be getting worse.

    The pertinent quote from Denis Saverot was:

    “Just look at the figures. In the 1960s, we were drinking 160 litres each a year and weren’t taking any pills. Today we consume 80 million packets of anti-depressants, and wine sales are collapsing. Wine is the subtlest, most civilised, most noble of anti-depressants. But look at our villages. The village bar has gone, replaced by a pharmacy.”

    My village has one bar and four pharmacies. It’s enough to drive you to drink.

  • What can we say… French (and I am one) have become expert at nonsense. However the kind of comparison made above, whilst true and relevant for objective people, is bound to have the reverse effect in France when simply stated as such and without the proper context. It’s strange but if the aim is to make the nation as a whole and therefore the politicians understand the benefits of our wine culture and our wine drinking, first we need to agree with them that it can be unhealthy and dangerous and work from there to bring about positive messages heavily based on facts naturally. Going head first in stating clashing messages like this will just lock people in the wrond frame of mind.

    In towns, young people increasingly have fun like in the UK whish has a heavy drinking culture. Alcohol brands lobbies on one side and sensationalist media on the other and the winemakers are going to lose against Diageo even though we know who is more responsible for the heavy drinking.

    We also have a very important rural society, I venture far more than the UK, and these are the people who choose the local representatives who in turn have to put in place “popular” measures to keep everyone happy. Considering the access to and quality of information (TF1 public channel is the most watched and I associate it with a televised tabloid channel more aimed at sensationalism than true information) combined with local community dynamics (more importantly in non-wine areas) I would say that it partly explains the rise of nationalism observed in recent years but also participate to create a mood of more generalised insecurity.

    I am no expert in this but as a French living in the UK I have long been wondering how France ends up in this situation. Talking to family, friends and others on social media I think the above has something to do with it.

    What do Anglo-Saxons living in France think ?

  • And we think that the UK’s Duty escalator is the worst sort of government interference! It saddens us to see politicians making draconian laws like this. Did government interference work in the USA in the 1920’s? No. Will it work in France today? We doubt it.

    In 1980 more than half of French adults were consuming wine on a near-daily basis. In 2010 that figure had fallen to 17% (Source: FranceAgriMer). The way things are going, it could be single figures within ten years. And in a country with roughly 10% of the world’s vineyards, this sounds rather counter-intuitive.

    Maybe the IOC should have awarded the 2012 Olympics to Paris. It might have made the French feel happier and maybe they’d start enjoying wine again (instead of anti-depressants). Just a thought …

  • That’s one of the French Paradox! and the worst one.

  • Chuck Hayward

    As you probably know, I have been working with Australian wines for over 25 years. Can I take the opportunity to adapt your intro as below. In fact, we could substitute almost any country the same way… Quite sad…

    ———————————————–

    “What is it with Australian politicians? Are they nuts?

    I’m referring to the way that they seem to be hell bent on damaging one of the things the Australians do best: making wine.

    Australia is blessed by some of the best places in the world to grow wine grapes. It makes some of the world’s greatest wines. Barossa shiraz, Clare riesling, McLaren Vale grenache… that’s just for starters. And because of the concept of terroir, no one else can make these wines.

    Australia should be proud of its wine industry. And the politicians should do all they can to support and promote Australian wine. It’s a no brainer. Play to your strengths.

    ———————————————————–

    The problem? Politicians.

  • tim p

    Loi Evin – as far as I understand it – bans tobacco and alcohol advertising in France (as in the UK). That’s it – end of story. A secondary affect is the ban must be ‘fair’ and can no longer positively discriminate in favour of France.

    Can you please explain in your blog how this is somehow wrong? France has an alcoholism and tobacco mortality problem less than the UK, it is the duty of French government to address health issues – no matter if it upsets prissy wine bloggers elsewhere.

    Comments regarding Australia are irrelevant.

    Comments regarding the rights / wrongs of alcohol tax are irrelevant.

    Comments regarding ‘anti-depressant’ consumption compared to alcohol consumption are ignorant, alcohol IS A DEPRESSANT drug – not some kind of tasty ‘anti-depressant’ for gods sake get your facts right.

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