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French government backs wine tastings in university canteens

The French government has published a report recommending that university canteens hold wine tasting sessions.

The report, detailed in the May issue of Decanter magazine, was commissioned by the French minister for higher education, and gives a range of proposals on students’ consumption including ‘initiation to a moderate consumption of wine’.

Television presenter Jean-Pierre Coffe, who co-wrote the study, believes universities should give students an education in wine as well as in academia.

‘Why is there sex education and not viticultural education? You can learn wine too’, he said.

Jean-Robert Pitte, former director of Paris’s Sorbonne University, believes allowing students to taste wine in moderate quantities will ‘show them that it is a pleasure, good for their health and part of their national heritage’.

But the plans have not pleased everyone. Dr Alain Rigauld, president of the French anti-alcohol lobby group ANPAA (Association Nationale de Prévention en Alcoologie et Addictologie) branded the report ‘shocking’ and nothing more than wine industry marketing.

‘It’s naïve to think we are going to reduce binge drinking this way’, Rigauld said.

The move comes amid concerns in the wine trade that France’s vocal anti-alcohol campaigns fighting drink driving and highlighting the health risks of wine are harming the industry.

In February 2009 a report by the French Cancer Institute found that 100ml of wine a day could increase the risk of cancer, and in May a bill was passed making it illegal to offer free alcoholic drinks for promotional reasons.

Last November, Paris city hall launched an awareness campaign aimed at the capital’s 15-25-year-olds, warning of the dangers of ‘le binge drinking’.

For more on the vilification of wine in France, read the ‘France, where wine is damned’ feature in our May issue, on sale April 7.

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