In a move which has the French wine community up in arms, the Sarkozy government has upped the stakes in its war against alcohol abuse by banning all outside drinking.
The Department of Health will announce today that drinking any alcohol in any public place – including pavement cafes – will become illegal from 31 July 2009.
The measure – which the government says is necessary to ‘combat a growing culture of excessive drinking’ – comes hot on the heels of its announcement in February that even one drink could contribute to mouth and throat cancers.
From 31 July consumption of alcohol will only be allowed inside. All restaurants, bars and cafes with outside areas, even if their terraces are surrounded by full awnings, will come under the act.
‘This is not only the next step in a sustained campaign against the wine community,’ a spokesman for the group Vin et Societe said, ‘it is an attack against the very heart of France.’
The French government has been battling with the wine community for several years – mainly over the draconian Evin Law which bans promotion of wine – and over health.
In 2004 it brought out a series of hard-hitting advertisements suggesting every drink had a permanent effect on the body, with wine lumped in with all other alcohols.
That prompted the Academie du Vin de France, whose members include some of the most distinguished names in French wine including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s Aubert de Villaine and Jean-Pierre Perrin of Domaine de Beaucastel, to call a debate to ask, ‘Is France losing its wine culture?’
A spokesman for the Academie, responding to this latest move, said, ‘The answer to that question now is, our wine culture is in its death throes. We are entering the dark ages once more.’
Steven Spurrier, Decanter’s consultant editor, said, ‘At this rate, the next thing this government will ban is the wearing of lipstick and tights.’
Written by Adam Lechmere