The madmen who hold the strings of the French wine industry

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Professeur Reynaud trying to hold back the waves
of social media


These are busy times for the lunatic fringes of the French wine industry. First, there is the revival of the 2009 plan to ban the blending of red and white to make rosé anywhere in Europe. (Apart from Champagne, presumably).


Then there was the proposal – by Professeur Reynaud* in a report to the French government on Les stratégies validées de réduction des dommages liés aux addictions (valid strategies to reduce the damage caused by addictions) that internet promotion of wine be no longer authorised, particularly through social media.

Setting aside the worrying state-control-of-media flavour of terms like “authorise”, there is also the question of how precisely the good Prof thinks he is going to achieve this particular objective. Will he ban French wine producers from having websites? And will he also ban websites “promoting” restaurants and wine museums that belong to wineries? Will he ban winery owners from having their own websites and blogs, or will he simply censor any mention of the evil alcohol from their contents? Will he take Chinese-style steps to block Gallic access to sites and blogs hosted on non-French servers? Will Twitter and Facebook be similarly censored? And will website addresses and QR Codes be banned from labels?

There is an online petition to combat the Reynaud plans, and you may feel you’d like to sign it. https://www.change.org/fr/p%C3%A9titions/sauvons-le-droit-d-expression-de-nos-vignerons On the other hand you may prefer to simply watch it wither and die…

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*King Canute – or Cnut – is the 10th century king who is said – probably erroneously – to have tried to hold back the waves. Prof Reynaud is a psychiatrist and head of the dept of psychiatry and addiction at the Paul Brousse University-Hospital. 

11 comments

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwZE7TiMM7o I have a document filled with petitions from all growers in Languedoc and from Madame Lanson against this if you want it…We did a road trip in 2009 and interviewed loads of growers and Lanson etc

  2. Complaints from the Growers as they believe the internet has helped them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_h3mtjIct0

  3. Robert, quite frankly I'm disappointed, this article could have been so much longer! This is only the tip of the iceberg, and you're right to point out that to give this nonsense airtime helps it live and breathe.
    Far more devastating in my view is the completely arcane structure of the wine industry here, the avoidance of consolidation (as sponsored by the state) being one example, leading to monstrous negociants on one hand and on the other hand, co-ops and small producers who (mostly) simply lack the management and business skills to survive. But lucky they're well supported by taxpayers, so that's alright then. And then there's the usual massive wastage of public funds by the various bodies…but perhaps that's for another day!
    All the best
    Matt

  4. Matt, as you know, we share views on the myriad failings of the French industry. I'm writing this – and wrote the post – while waiting for a delayed plane at Oporto airport. It doesn't take much analysis to see that dysfunctionality runs deep within the fabric of the global wine industry and is especially apparent in Europe.
    Unfortunately, far too many members of the industry – producers, distributors, commentators – seem to almost relish that aspect, much as they embrace the “romance” of unreliable natural corks.
    But, yes, I will address some of the aspects you mention on another day. This was just a broadside at a couple of especially mad Gallicisms.

  5. THis is not a surprise. France has a draconian legal system of wine Law – Loi Evin which is a total control of wine promotion. Devised when wine was consumed at 140 litres a head it is now outdated as the role of wine has changed with societal change from a traditional beverage to a hedonistic its accessory. Wine per capita consumption is now at internationally comparative levels ( when corrected for tourism) . ( same as UK / Australia etc).
    The problem they see is that the internet circumvents loi Evin as does wine tourism. The Wine and Health Campaign also was a mechanism that was tried during the 1990's as a mechanism to redefine wine in a modern society.

    It will be difficult to implement and also most of the French Web sights are aimed at international markets rather than domestic so they are threatening even further their international business model.
    I would also be surprised (and I have not seen the report) that there will also be a proposed promotion wine tourism as well as this is also a de facto way of promoting French Wine. The Decanter “Youtube” slots is a great way of educating students to French wine – so they are really cutting throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
    Fortunately it will be difficult to block the internet but Australia has had some success with blocking porn.
    But to put wine in the same classification as porn is bizarre.
    I agree Robert it is a deep rooted dysfunctionality that after 16 years at the OIV was an experience in itself. But it is not just France it is also invading the New World as well. Marketing is under the axe everywhere. The programs I devised and promoted internationally in wine marketing have been terminated in Australia when their graduates are needed most. Australia's strength at one time was its marketing – now it is dreadful.
    The good thing is that research into the wine business continues via the AWBR who are currently meeting in Canada.
    Dedicated academic research to solving the industry's problems. Recently in an article in WBM the statement was made that wine can be generically marketed like any other commodity – so its not only the French Industry ….. and I have just wasted my time energy and money over the last 40 years to try and bring some level of commercial sanity .. and I have failed miserably. Give my regards to my Portuguese friends in the Duero.

  6. Mike Paul · ·

    The frustrating aspect to me, Robert, of Prof Reynaud's proposal is that a great deal of time and effort must have gone into it and yet in this aspect at least, as you imply, it appears wildly impractical.
    There is an urgent need for good, joined up thinking in so many areas of our industry, including the one to which he's so committed.All very frustrating.

  7. Mike, joined-up-thinking and wine have had a few encounters, but they've never got on very well.

    And there has never been any shortage of well-received, well-meaning mad philosophising in France

  8. Anthony, I don't think you've really wasted your time, but, I do agree that commercialism and wine have yet to come to terms with each other (like joined-up thinking)

  9. Dear Robert, Mike and Tony…

    How much of the problem is based on the fact that the wine sector has elevated the product itself to almost divine status by those responsible for protecting it?

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