France's Parliament has voted to make the country's controversial Evin Law, which governs wine and alcohol publicity, more flexible - only a few days before French president François Hollande is due to open the Vinexpo wine fair in Bordeaux.
The amendment to the Evin Law, proposed by Republican senator Gerard César, will now permit a greater distinction between advertising and education.
If passed into legislation, the Evin Law would still ban advertising on wine and other alcohol, but educational articles and wine tourism ventures will not be at risk of breaking the law.
French winemkers have taken last night’s vote as a sign of progress, with many having accused the country’s government of siding with anti-alcohol lobbyists in the past few years.
The issue has been deeply divisive, as ever in France. Health minister Marisol Touraine called this week’s Evin Law amendment ‘incomprehensible’ and Alain Rigaud, director of a national body for prevention of alcohol-related illnesses, said the health of the country ‘should not be sacrificed for economics’.
Earlier this week the Socialist Party government had indicated that it did not want the amendment to pass, but ministers across opposing parties defied them, and voted instead in favour.
Audrey Bourolleau, managing director at wine trade lobbying group Vin & Société, told Decanter.com, ‘This is a cross-party vote, and is a strong indication that there is popular support for clarifying the Evin Law. This does not loosen up the existing law, it simply makes clearer what does and does not count as advertising. It is very good news for the press in France, and for wine tourism bodies – the idea of marking out a Wine Route, for example, is no longer potentially breaking the law. We were not optimistic earlier in the week, but this is a strong gesture for the worth of the wine industry to the French economy’.
The Evin Law, first introduced in 1991, bans media advertising of any drink with an alcohol content of more than 1.2%. Recent years have seen the law tightened up in various aspects, with many French journalists unsure of what they are allowed to write in relation to wine and beer after key cases where Le Parisien (2007) and Paris Match (2012) received fines for editorial pieces.
Hollande is expected to address the issue in his opening remarks at Vinexpo, ‘There are still many inconsistencies within government policy,’ said Bourolleau, ‘and we would like to hear that this amendment indicates a growing support for the 500,000 actors within the wine industry from the government itself’.