No wine tastings at French vineyards? Quelle horreur! You would think that such a restriction could never happen in the country whose name is synonymous with fermented grapes, and yet, I recently learned that it might not be such a stretch. Monday's post about enjoying Virginia wine at the source garnered a comment about how France's vintners currently fear such a tasting ban. Officials are becoming increasingly concerned about alcohol abuse among French youth - youth who were largely thought of as immune to the binging habits of their American and British peers -, and France's parliament will start debating a law that seeks to protect them in early March. But at what cost?
It's not the first talk of tightening drinking laws in France in recent months. When I was living in Paris last spring I remember hearing quite a bit of buzz about possible bans on happy hours. Though they are much less commonplace in France than they are in the U.S., late afternoon discounts on drinks were seen as creating excess alcohol consumption and encouraging reckless behavior. Apparently, tastings at wineries fall into that category as well, but I'm not buying it. Ever been to a vineyard in France? As far as I could tell, they mostly attract foreign tourists and French couples on a weekend trip, not teens looking to get wasted. Hopefully this is just a far-fetched, alarmist cry emanating from the wine industry and not something that will actually come to pass. France should embrace its wine culture, not penalize it. If she has forgotten how to embrace her wine culture, I might be able to offer some tips.