Interviewed on French TV channel, BFMTV, health Minister Dr Agnès Buzyn said that she opposed re-introducing alcohol at sports stadiums in France.
When told that people still drank Champagne in VIP boxes, she said she was unaware of this, having never been in one.
‘The question should be [whether to] ban alcohol from VIP boxes,’ she said.
The episode arose after Buzyn said she was against a relaxation of France’s famous Evin Law (Loi Evin) on alcohol marketing.
Alcohol promotions are forbidden at sporting events and Buzyn said sport was an excellent moment to support positive public health messages, rather than to promote or drink alcohol.
A member of Buzet’s team was subsequently quoted in French media as saying that there were no plans to ban alcohol in VIP boxes at sports events.
But the mayor of Reims, Arnaud Robinet, tweeted a strong reaction to the Buzyn interview: ‘#Champagne, a wine that makes France shine throughout the world: savoir-faire, excellence and French tradition; once again fingered by a minister and presented as a symbol of the fight against alcoholism and privileges.’
Robinet later told Decanter.com that France was basically ‘shooting itself in the foot’.
Buzyn, a haematologist, often finds herself at odds with the wine sector.
Previous rows have ignited around her suggestion that a pictogram warning pregnant woman against drinking be enlarged on bottle labels, and coloured red instead of black and grey.
Another flashpoint has been her comments that wine, far from being special, is ‘an alcohol like any other’.
Buzet has pointed to data showing that alcohol-related disease is the second biggest cause of death in France after smoking, killing just over 40,000 people a year.
See also: War of words escalates between French wine group and medics