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French anti-alcohol lobby takes on wine trade in rare debate

The head of what is commonly termed France's anti-alcohol lobby, the ANPAA, has told an audience of Champagne growers that their wines are a potential health hazard.

L-R: Alain Rigaud (ANPAA), Séverine Couvreur (moderator),Jean-Marc Charpentier (President Groupe des Jeunes Vignerons de La Champagne), Audrey Bourolleau (Vin et Société). Image: Caroline Henry

Dr Alain Rigaud
, who heads the Association Nationale de Prévention en Alcoologie et Addictologie, agreed to a rare debate with his opposite number at French wine supporters group Vin & Societe and organised by the trade body for young Champagne producers.

Despite the audience, Rigaud refused to hold back. He argued that an increase in tax, more information on the label and more restrictions on wine advertising are needed to fight rising problems with alcohol consumption in France.

‘Wine is first and foremost an alcoholic beverage and from the first sip the risk of alcoholism is real,’ he said. He denied being pro-prohibition, but he proposed to ‘limit the consumption of wine through an increase in price’ and add the message ‘alcohol is a health hazard’ to bottle labels.

His comments come amid rising tension between France’s wine industry and those concerned about a growing binge drinking problem in the country. The Loi Evin, which restricts publicity around alcohol, is a particular flashpoint and is set for a government review this year.

Audrey Bourolleau told the Champagne audience that several studies have proved the health benefits of moderate wine consumption.

But, she acknowledged that research suggests ‘77% of the French do not know the benchmarks for moderate consumption’. She added, ‘Rather than scaremongering, a real effort should be made to inform the population of these benchmarks.’

She even suggested that the ANPAA and Vin & Societe could work together, but Rigaud would not be drawn on this in a room full of wine producers.

A French government spokesperson last year denied to decanter.com that there were plans to put health warnings on wine labels, amid increased speculation about ministers’ stance.

Written by Caroline Henry in Champagne

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