Confusion over the legality of wine advertising in France is driving more and more organisations to self-censorship.
The internet was not included in a specific list of allowable advertising mediums in the 1991 Evin Law, and so it is by omission illegal to advertise wine online in France.
This has led to prosecutions of companies seen to be ‘promoting’ alcohol. Earlier this year Heineken’s website was found to be illegal in Fance.
Companies are now unwilling to risk prosecution – especially where the internet is concerned.
Orange France has banned any advertising on its websites from wine companies, and Camus Cognac refuses admission to its website from any servers it detects coming from within France.
The confusion goes beyond the internet. In January this year, Le Parisien newspaper was fined because an article on Champagne was considered advertising and as such contravened the Evin Law.
Now magazines and newspapers routinely follow articles about wine with the government health warning on alcohol abuse.
A television channel recently used the same health warning before showing the documentary film about the wine industry, Mondovino.
The Post Office recently refused the request of a restaurateur in the Gers, Christophe Termote of L’Auberge d’Astarac, for personalised stamps because they depicted a bunch of grapes and a person seeming to drink from a glass.
And the magazine Paris Match felt the need for the health warning before an article on the International Festival of Wine and Books in Saumur. The article was illustrated with a wine glass etched with the logo of the festival.
Marie Christine Tarby of alcohol lobbying group Vins et Societe told decanter.com, ‘This is not even about the Evin Law anymore, this is just crazy.’
Other countries are taking notice also. www.orlandowines.com, owned by Pernod Ricard, bans visitors from France – along with Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
Wine writer Jacques Dupont wrote in Le Point this week, ‘How can we on the one hand celebrate our fine wines, and then treat those who produce them like drug dealers?’
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux