French wine industry rebels against health warning labels

Labelling wine bottles with bigger health warnings will turn wine into a “criminal product” and damage “the soul of France”, says a group of French top chateaus in response to the plan by the country’s health ministry.

In an attempt to stop the measure, 64 major French wine producers, including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Yquem, Cheval Blanc, Petrus, Pol Roger and Roederer Champagne houses, have written an open letter to French daily Le Figaro. The proposals to mark the bottles with two-centimetre-wide red tags were sent to industry officials last month.

“Every day, our cellars, our domains and chateaus, our wine-making landscapes are welcoming thousands of travellers coming to discover this France, bosom of the art de vivre that is the envy of the world and where wine plays a leading role,” the letter reads.

The changes, proposed by France’s health minister Agnes Buzyn, are aimed at warning female consumers against drinking any wine during pregnancy and reminding young customers that wine is illegal to drink if under 18-years-old.

Wine bottles
Photo: Flickr Jeff Kubina

The current rules oblige French vintners to put messages advising zero alcohol consumption during pregnancy but there is no legal minimum size or rules on colour, and they do not require a warning against underage drinking, reported.

The health ministry is planning to push the draft into law “by the end of the year”, according to The Telegraph. The step was reportedly triggered by data from the National Institute for Health and Medical Research, which revealed that 25 percent of pregnant women in France keep on drinking alcohol. At the same time, the government is trying to struggle with the problem of teenage binge drinking.

According to the wine producers, the health ministry just wants to “spread fear.”