‘Wine is not a sin’ were the opening words from Jean-Robert Pitte, the former president of the Sorbonne University to a wine conference in Italy last week.
Pitte’s presentation – at the World Wine Symposium (aka The Davos of Wine) – was on the future of wine consumption in the wine producing countries of Europe, and particularly in France.
He said that wine and religion had been connected since the creation of both, and that wine, an agricultural product, had always enjoyed a place in social life.
He quoted ‘Vin, vie, verite – wine, life, truth’ as the backbone of the cultural force of wine.
But try telling this to the French Government, whose prohibitionist actions over the last two decades have managed to bring down local consumption to around 40 litres a head, about the same as in Switzerland.
This started with the loi Evin, a law that banned advertising of any form of alcohol or tobacco that suggested that such a products might provide pleasure and has been continued with gusto by L’Association Nationale de Protection contre l’Alcool et les Addictions (ANPAA), which has an annual budget of €66m and 1,400 employees and scores of state-supported doctors to do its bidding.
The result, said highly-respected journalist Michel Bettane, was that wine was being treated by these people as a huge ogre, which must be totally restricted and controlled.
The problem, however, is that the State does not separate wine from alcohol, nor has it realised that the problem of alcoholism in France pretty much ended when the workers ceased to drink 3 litres of rotgut a day.
The Government doctors maintain that wine is unhealthy, to which 80 year-old Dr NK Yong, Singapore’s leading wine collector, replied ‘anyone who tells you wine is not good for you is lying. If the politicians don’t understand this, you should change the politicians.’
Messrs Pitte and Bettane urged that the public has to be motivated to attack these prohibitionist rules for ‘a national, vocal uprising is urgently needed’.
France had one such in 1789, in 1848 and in 1968. Why not in 2010?
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Written by Steven Spurrier