Would the French ruin one of their main tourist attractions?

Written by admin on March 11, 2009 – 8:45 pm -

The movie Sideways highlighted wine tasting junkets as a major sightseeing activity for wine lovers in the U.S. People go from one wine producer to another, sample a bit of that year’s crop (or older vintages) and buy bottles of their favorites to take home.

Limousine companies got into the marketing act by chauffeuring oenophiles (tasters out for a good time) from one producer to another. Driving after too much drinking is frowned upon and punishable by hefty fines with points being added to a driver’s license. Worse yet, you may find your car wrapped around a tree with you and your passengers in it. That doesn’t factor in the cars you might have encountered head on.

The French have traditionally enjoyed wine tastings at caves throughout France. Many wine growing parts of the country have designated wine-tasting routes where people stop and sample tiny glasses of wine and may or may not came away with a bottle or even a five- or ten-liter bag-in-box. Off they go to the next cave, which may be less than five minutes away. People from all over the world come expressly to make wine pilgrimages. France’s hospitality industry has benefited.

Last week, France’s Minister of Health Roselyne Bachelot proposed a law that would make it illegal to have wine tastings. This is intended to ban binge drinking at soirées sponsored by liquor companies in open bars where young people, often students, pay an entrance fee to drink as much as they like. But it could be interpreted as banning wine tastings.

As the French like to do, vintners went on strike over this proposition that would severely impact business and their ability to sell wines. Gone would be tastings in liquor stores and grocery stores (that sell enormous quantities of the country’s best-known beverage.)

Most observers of the French wager this law will never be adopted. It has too many marketing ramifications and would destroy a huge draw for French tourism.

Wine growers are proposing they be given a status differentiating them from producers of hard liquor and fortified spirits. That’s what’s done in Spain.

“How can one imagine that French wine, without even talking about its economic weight or its place in our heritage and our cultural identity, can have any real export growth opportunities when everything is done to censor it in our country?” questioned Bordeaux mayor, Alain Juppé.

Time will tell. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you read about the French striking and a lot of lobbying and posturing.  C’est la France.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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