Furious at French opposition to military action against Iraq, the US Speaker has called for an embargo on French wine.

US House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert is asking Republican colleagues what they think of such a move, the Washington Post has reported.

Hastert suggested the US should require bright orange labels on French wine bottles warning their contents may have been treated with powdered ox blood to alter the color, Hastert’s spokesman John Feehery, said.

He added, ‘Nothing has been done yet’ as all proposals were still at the talking stage.

In the same speech, the Speaker suggested a ban on Evian water might encourage the French to revise their opposition to the US drive to war.

Hastert said he might alert the US public to the fact French winemakers have used powdered ox blood as a fining agent in red wine.

Traditionally used throughout the wine industry – and as colouring in other foodstuffs such as tea – and considered harmless, powdered blood was banned in the European Union in 1998 following the BSE (mad cow disease) crisis.

In the late 1990s there were some seizures of batches of wine allegedly containing ox blood. Reuters reported in June 1999 that French health inspectors had confiscated 66,000 litres of lesser-quality Rhone Valley wine and 220 kg of powdered blood in the region around Avignon. Since then few such stories have appeared.

Joe Rollo, spokesman for the California Wine Institute, told decanter.com Hastert’s comments were not entirely serious.

But he added such an attitude was not helpful to the US wine industry. ‘We’re trying to get people to try wine, and the last thing we need is anyone suggesting wine contains unpleasant substances.’

Rollo also said he didn’t believe there was any reaction against French wines as a result of the French stand against military action in Iraq.

Written by Adam Lechmere13 February 2003