French Senators Give Wine Heritage Status

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Quinn Dombrowski

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Quinn Dombrowski

On Monday, April 14, the French Senate officially recognized wine as part of its cultural heritage, as part of a farm bill already approved by the National Assembly.

The bill, originally authored by Roland Courteau, the senator from Aude, makes wine part of the “cultural, gastronomic, and pastoral heritage of France.”  Besides preserving an important cultural aspect, the bill is also meant to protect the production of wine, elevating the importance of vineyards and their keepers.  The importance of wine is “economic and social, also of course with hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Courteau stated during his defense of the bill, prompting applause.

The proposal comes amidst a number of statistics showing a decrease in the average amount of wine consumed by the French adult.  According to a report by FranceAgriMer, a group that reports on and regulates the agriculture industry, only 24% of the French traditionally drink wine with meals, as opposed to tap or mineral water and juices.  This number is a sharp decline from the 50% reported in 1980.  Similarly in 1980, nearly 51% of the French population drank wine “every day or nearly every day,” compared to only 17% in 2010.

This decline appears to result from a change in wine’s place in the traditional family meal, according to a 2013 report from the International Journal of Entrepreneurship.

“What has happened is a progressive erosion of wine’s identity, and of its sacred and imaginary representations,” say the report’s authors, Thierry Lorey and Pascal Poutet.  As families focus more and more on the meal as a means of fuel and nutrition, rather than a social function, wine has been left behind, its consumption decreasing with each successive generation.  According to a report by BBC’s online magazine, a similar trend is being seen in Spain and Italy.

Though Monday’s wine bill passed unanimously, other senators wished to see similar protection extended to other agricultural sectors.  Some quoted regional specialties, noting that cheese such as camembert and the apple bandy calvados from the Normandy region also hold important spots in France’s gastronomic heritage.  However, a similar proposal for the protection of the beer industry, proposed by the representative from Alsace, near the German border, was rejected.

Didier Guillaume, a senator from the wine-heavy Rhône-Alpes region, noted an important distinction between wine and other liquors. “Wine, abroad,” he noted, “across the entire world, is France.  It is different with beer… and spirits, that pose problems for one’s health.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: