Alex Massie

World Gone Mad: French Division

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Things you never thought you would see: the French government advising against wine consumption...

In the midst of the winter gloom, President Sarkozy's administration  has chosen this moment to tell its people to stop drinking wine. You are hearing right. The Ministry of Health has issued rules for reducing the risk of cancer and one of the main ones is never drink alcohol. 

"The consumption of alcohol, and especially wine, is discouraged," say guidelines that are drawn from the findings of the National Cancer Institute (INCA). A single glass of wine per day will raise your chance of contracting cancer by up to 168 percent, it says.

A you might expect, the wine industry is not happy...

The wine producers are calling foul, accusing the "ayatollahs" of the health lobby of trying to kill one of the glories of the nation. They are noting the suspicious coincidence that France now has its' first tee-total president. Nicolas Sarkozy sips mineral water and orange juice when all around him are knocking back the Champagne and Burgundy (Carla Bruni, his wife, is not so abstemious and both she and Sarko are smokers). "This persecution of wine has to stop," said the General Association of Wine Producers...

Xavier de Volontat, president of the producers' assocation in the southwestern Languedoc region, told us by phone today: "The extremists must not be allowed to take consumers hostage..."

Indeed they must not. Still, at least INA isn't suggesting that while French wine is bad for you, Australian wine might be good for you...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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