In the run-up to the French presidential elections, right-wing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy appears to be winning the battle for winemakers’ votes against socialist counterpart Segolene Royal.

Initially, a straw poll across the country revealed apathy and no official position on the part of the generic representative bodies including those of Champagne (CIVC), Burgundy (BIVB) and Bordeaux (CIVB).

However, many winemakers believe centre-right candidate Sarkozy –

the favourite to become president on 6 May – is better for the wine industry, mainly after hints that he might loosen the restrictions on wine advertising as set down by the Evin Law.

‘I think people who understand that wine is a business have to go for Sarkozy – in part because of his stance on the 35 hour work week and for what he has said about the possibility of relaxing the Evin Law,’ said Bordeaux proprietor Jean-Christophe Mau.

Sarkozy favours a no-tax or social security charges on overtime beyond the national limit of 35 hours per week.

Jean-Luc Thunevin, of Chateau Valandraud in St-Emilion, agreed that the Evin Law was the vote-winner for winemakers in France. He said he thought that, ‘most of the Crus Classes and Grand Cru Classes, Burgundians and Champenois will probably go for Sarkozy.’

Sarkozy also enjoys the support of luxury goods mogul Alain Dominique Perrin of Chateau Lagrezette in Cahors. Perrin, who is on the board of luxury goods firm Richemont told decanter.com Sarkozy was the best candidate.

‘I am not just a winemaker but also a businessman. France needs big reforms, and Royal’s plans are not profound enough,’ he said.

Perrin, who is friends with UK premier Tony Blair, added that he believed the sweeping state reforms needed in France could only be made by a conservative government.

Much anti-alcohol sentiment comes from the socialist camp which sees social problems related to alcohol consumption as a burden on the state. Jean Albrecht, proprietor of Lucien Albrecht, in Alsace, said the French left had an ‘ideological bias against wine – it says wine is bad for your health.’

The centrist candidate, Francois Bayrou, who was thrown out of the running on the first round of votes on 22 April could have provided a more conciliatory ground for those in both camps.

‘I think Beyrou would have been the best. He’s from the country and knows the challenges that face the growers. Right now the candidates are saying whatever they have to in order to get elected,’ said Burgundy winemaker Thierry Brouin of Domaine des Lambrays.

Brouin did admit that Sarkozy’s proposed relaxation of the Evin Law ‘would be good’ although he added that neither candidate would be a ‘great friend to us’ [winemakers].

Written by Maggie Rosen and Oliver Styles