As far as the United States goes, the French have become snappish, irritable and unrelentingly critical. We can’t do anything right. Now a plausible explanation has surfaced about why this is so, but more about that later.
Aside from a timely hand in winning the Revolutionary War, one of the many things we have to thank the French for is introducing Americans to the joy and comfort of good wine. Wine is an integral part of French culture and cuisine.
Alas — or, more properly, helas — the French wine industry is encountering rough times. Changing habits and a strong euro have hurt sales at home and abroad.
But the real culprit, according to the Associated Press, is a French government crackdown on drinking and driving and a ban on all TV ads and strict limits on print ads for alcoholic beverages, including, to the intense chagrin of the country’s vintners, wine. Restaurant sales of wine are down 15 percent over the past 10 months.
The head of an organization of wine professionals told AP: "Wine has been stigmatized. People are so scared about drinking and driving that some people are opting for abstinence." Demonstrations have been organized and delegations dispatched to the capital to persuade the government to give wine a break.
Meanwhile, annual wine consumption per person in France has fallen from 26 gallons in the 1960s, when our relations with France were great, to 15 gallons today when they are not. We hope the vintners succeed in restoring wine to its rightful place in French life. Good relations with the United States depend on it.