Top French estates protest new label plans

More than 60 of France’s leading châteaux have written in protest to the government against proposals which could see cigarette-style warnings slapped on the front of their bottles.

The 64 producers, including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Yquem, Cheval Blanc and Pol Roger, wrote an open letter to the French daily Le Figaro, warning that the government risked turning wine into a “criminal product” if it persisted with its plan to place large health warnings on bottles.

France’s health minister, Agnès Buzyn, has proposed plans to place 2cm-wide red logos on the front of wine bottles warning women against drinking during pregnancy and that it is illegal to drink if under 18-years-old.

Warnings about not drinking during pregnancy are already mandatory in French labelling laws but their size and colour is not stipulated. There is no rule about warning against underage drinking.

The health ministry is reportedly keen to push through the plans into law “by the end of the year”, The Telegraph noted.

Wine’s impact on health has become a hot topic in France of late with many doctors and health campaigners declaring they are breaking the “taboo” that wine consumption is healthy. Even president Macron has come under fire for professing to drinking a glass of wine with his lunch and supper.

Buzyn herself appeared on television recently and declared: “We have let the French population think that wine protects them, that it brings benefits that other alcohols do not. It’s untrue scientifically, wine is an alcohol like any other.”

France has traditionally had rather more relaxed attitudes about drinking during pregnancy and introducing wine to children at quite a young age. Yet the rise of minors binge drinking and reports indicating that a quarter of all expectant mothers drink while pregnant has led to an uptick in the health drive.

Naturally, the proposals that have been put forward have horrified the French wine industry, which fears that cigarette-style health labelling would be the next step.

In their letter to Le Figaro, the estates declared: “We are the guardians of an exceptional heritage: French viticulture.

Custodians of this heritage and conscious of the demands it implies, our work consists, every day, of pushing to ever greater heights the excellence of our wines.

“Every day, by exporting our produce, we share with the world, novices and wine lovers alike, a little of the soul of France.

“Every day, our cellars, our domains and chateaus, our wine making landscapes, welcome thousands of tourists come to discover this France, bosom of the art de vivre that is the envy of the world and where wine plays a leading role.

“Are we going to have to, minister, send to France and the whole world our wines…with labels covered in lugubrious and deathly signs?”

French producers have apparently put forward their own proposals to make current labelling and warnings clearer and drinks producers also recently pledged €5 million over the next four years to drive awareness of the dangers of drinking while pregnant or a minor.

The government has yet to respond to the counter proposals but if introduced, presumably the warnings would not be required in export markets.

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