Blog: Chris Brook-CarterDriving insane

Chris Brook-Carter | 18 November 2003

No doubt it is frustrating to see your sales erode by 15% on the back of a government initiative. However, the push from France’s winemakers to convince consumers it’s still okay to drink and drive is at best misplaced and at worst irresponsible.

The move has come after sales of wine in French restaurants registered a 15% drop following the latest drink-driving campaign by the French authorities. In response, the trade organisation Afivin plans to launch a $350,000 initiative, the purpose of which is to convince motorists that they don't have to stop drinking altogether.

Some of the suggestions made by the national wine producers' association are credible – the idea of supplying restaurants with breathalyser tests in particular. But, in general, this is a misjudged marketing effort.

So wildly do the effects of alcohol vary person-to-person and even day-to-day on the same person that these French campaigners are treading on very dangerous ground suggesting that, even in moderation, it is acceptable to have a drink and get behind a wheel.

"In case of doubt, the easiest way to be sure you don't break the limit is to refrain from drinking," said Transport Ministry spokeswoman Emmanuelle Dormond, quite rightly.

But this case once more highlights the archaic attitude so many French producers have towards selling their wine. From subsidies for over-production to the dismissive nature with which competitors from the New World are viewed, French winemaking still suffers from over-inflated opinion of its own importance.

"People are so afraid of the police these days that they're not drinking any wine at all," said Pascal Bobillier-Monnot, director of France's national wine producers' association, as if this is in some way a bad thing for anyone using France's roads.

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