France just celebrated a World Cup win, yet all Gaul is divided in two. A new plan to place warning labels on wine is being labeled as too square for l’Hexagone. In fact, 64 heavyweight names in the wine world just published a letter claiming that the warnings would threaten the “soul of France” and could turn wine into a “criminal product.”
The controversy began when France’s health minister, Agnès Buzyn, introduced a proposal to plaster two 2cm-wide, red labels on the front of wine bottles. One warning would remind customers that drinking while pregnant can cause birth defects. The second warning would state that it is illegal for minors (under 18 in France) to drink wine.
The plan did not go over well with producers. An all-star lineup including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Petrus, Yquem, Cheval Blanc, Pol Roger, Louis Jadot, and Roederer published an open letter of condemnation in Parisian daily Le Figaro.
“Are we going to have to, minister, send to France and the whole world our wines…with labels covered in lugubrious and deathly signs for the image of our produce,” the letter questioned.
The letter also accused Buzyn and her ministry of conspiring to “spread fear.” Further the winemakers suggested that the end goal might be to “ban all alcohol consumption in France.” Sacre bleu!
“We are the guardians of an exceptional heritage: French winemaking,” the letter declared. “Every day by exporting our produce, we share with the world, novices and wine buffs alike, a part of the soul of France.”
The proposition cuts to the heart of an ongoing debate about alcohol consumption in France. Historically, many French citizens considered wine to be a separate category from alcohol. Consequently, it is common for minors to drink. Likewise, a study from the country’s National Institute for Health and Medical Research concluded that at least 25% of mothers in France drink throughout their pregnancy.
Buzyn hopes to implement the label plan by the “end of the year.” The move is part of a growing movement against alcoholism in the country. Prominently, even French prez Emanuel Macron has suffered the slings and arrows of media criticism after confessing to drinking wine daily with lunch and dinner daily.
“We don’t carry the plague and don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as cigarette manufacturers,” Pierre-Henri Gaget of Maison Louis Jadot told AFP. “To stick two warnings on the front label with a red line through them is unbearable. Next, they’ll be slapping photos with cancer victims and saying wine is to blame.”