The French government is ‘demonising’ wine with a ‘quasi-scientific’ and alarmist advertising campaign, France’s top wine professionals claim.

The ministry of health is ‘battering’ the country’s wine culture with a series of hard-hitting anti-alcohol adverts, the L’Academie du Vin de France said, while the Cercle du Rive Droite is trying to block the campaign.

One advertisement shows an hourglass filled with wine, with the words, ‘Day after day, your body records each glass you drink.’

Another, now running on French TV, shows a series of hands using hospital apparatus followed by the message, ‘Un petit geste peut vous en epargner beaucoup d’autres’. (‘One little gesture can save you from many more’). The next image shows a hand refusing a glass.

L’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, is attempting to tone down French government health policy, saying wine is being ‘demonised’.

It will hold a debate in Paris next year to ask, ‘Is France losing its wine culture?’

The Cercle du Rive Droite, a group of 100 Bordeaux winemakers, has also condemned the advertising campaign and is seeking legal advice to block the adverts.

‘This campaign, which is trying to frighten people, is based on quasi-scientific arguments whose validity has yet to be proved,’ Cercle president and Saint-Emilion winemaker Alain Raynaud told Agence France Presse.

He added, ‘the fear of death and the risk of cancer has never discouraged addicts.’

French government statistics say that excessive alcohol consumption, both directly and indirectly, accounts for around 45,000 deaths a year.

In Bordeaux, the Cercle has collected 500 names in a petition which says the anti-alcohol campaign wants to destroy wine – ‘a founding stone of western civilisation’.

Written by Oliver Styles