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Do French lawmakers really aim to ban Wine Festivals?

Do French lawmakers really aim to ban Wine Festivals?

Just over a year ago I wrote here about the stupidity of the French lawmakers who had decreed that certain articles about wine had to carry a health warning just like advertising does in France. Discussions continued all last year about the subject of wine sales on the internet being technically illegal in France – a totally ridiculous situation for French producers.

This year, the French governments’ lawmakers continue to threaten the wine industry and Marie-Christine Tarby-Maire, president of the industry action group Vin et Société and also president of the Comité Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Jura, gave out a dire warning at the recent Percée du Vin Jaune festival. She started two separate speeches – one at a dinner of the assembled winegrowers and all who work with the Jura wine industry, and the other at a consumer dinner in celebration of the Percée – with the startling question: “Will this Percée Festival be the last one?”

The problem has arisen with a proposal from the Health Minister to ban what are called in France ‘open bars’ which are aimed at students who pay a small entry fee and can then drink as much as they like. These bars are often sponsored by spirits companies and are seen – quite correctly – as encouraging binge drinking. To ban these would be a good thing indeed, but the way the proposal has been worded would mean that wine festivals and salons des vins (wine exhibitions) where an entry fee is charged would also be banned.

Once again, this is an extraordinary situation for the wine industry in France, a country that foreigners usually associate with all that is moderate and convivial about wine drinking. There are proposed amendments on the table, however, if this law is passed in its current state it will be a serious blow to the whole wine industry; it could also have ramifications on wine tourism in general as tastings offered by wine producers at the cellars might be affected. The wine industry is a huge contributor financially and culturally to France; it is crazy that ill-informed lawmakers are seeking to damage it so fundamentally.

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Comments (2)

  1. It does indeed seem short-sightedly overreaching, as many recent French anti-wine laws seem to be. It would be a huge shame to lose these wine festivals (including the Percée, which I’d dearly love to visit in the coming years).I’m not familiar with the proposed law beyond your brief description, but it does seem that, should the law pass, there might be opportunities to slightly redefine how the wine festivals work to avoid classification as an ‘open bar’ – e.g. give out chits for the entrance fee which are valid for a specific (and perhaps generous) number of glasses of wine, etc. Hopefully something could be done to preserve the festivals without losing their essential spirit.

    Feb 9, 2009
  2. Thanks for the comment, Doug. Actually La Percée and other festivals do just that – issue 10 tickets for tastes (in the case of the Percée – 4 for Vin Jaune!) in return for the entrance fee – strangely Mme Tarby-Maire still believes this is a problem as the law proposal stands. I’m hoping too that they all see reason and we can preserve these important events.

    Feb 10, 2009