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Will Francois Hollande be good for the wine industry?

The signs are that France's new President, Francois Hollande, will support the wine industry more than his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy did, although his stated dislike of the rich may be causing some nerves amongst proprietors.

Wine is one of the country’s key industries, contributing €7bn to the economy in 2011.

Areas of concern are the liberalisation of planting rights, the Evin Law banning all drinks advertising, and debates to bring alcohol levels for driving down to zero.

In the last days of his campaign, Sarkozy – a teetotaller who claimed he preferred coca-cola to wine – did visit Vouvray and drink a glass of the local wine.

But Francois Hollande has always been the more convincing wine lover – even having a glass of wine during lunch while waiting for the results on Sunday.

Hollande recently told industry journal Revue du Vin de France, ‘like many Frenchman, I am seduced by the excellence of the wine our country produces. I enjoy wine tasting with friends and family… and I often open a good bottle to celebrate big events.’

During the election campaign, Hollande accused Sarkozy of ‘betraying the wine industry’, and ‘supporting the abandonment of laws governing plantation rights’ – something which he sees as essential for allowing winemakers to make a living from their production.

Alain Raynaud, president of the Cercle de Rive Droite in Bordeaux, told Decanter.com he would ‘wait and see’ what effect the new President would have.

‘Sarkozy showed little interest in wine personally or politically, while Hollande does on a personal level have an interest. The industry is still heavily restricted by the Evin law, and perhaps we can hope to be heard during Hollande’s term.

‘But neither candidate’s manifesto detailed anything with precision concerning our industry, so we will have to wait and see. What French winemakers really needs is for the economy as a whole to bounce back, and for that I am more hesitant.’

It is the owners of some of France’s biggest estates who may be feeling the most uncomfortable. Hollande has promised, among other things, a new 75% tax rate on households earning over €1m, an extra inheritance tax on big estates, higher taxes on big firms and a tougher annual wealth tax on assets.

During the 2007 campaign, he went on record saying, ‘I don’t like the rich.’

With these feelings already declared, it remains to be seen whether he will retain the famous wine cellar at the Elysée Palace, with its €250,000 yearly wine budget.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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