NPR logo

Warning Labels Mandated for Wine Bottles in France

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Warning Labels Mandated for Wine Bottles in France


Warning Labels Mandated for Wine Bottles in France

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The French government has also turned itself concerns to wine drinkers - at least pregnant ones. The law there mandates that all wine bottles carry a warning to expected mothers about the dangers of drinking alcohol while they're expecting. You'd think there might be nothing controversial about that but in a country that drinks wine like water, the new law has French wine maker seen red.

Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: At a wine fair in Paris, hundreds of vintners from Bordeaux Burgundy and all over France extol the qualities of their wines in a giant exhibition hall. Francois Brun(ph) is a seventh generation winemaker from Alsace. The elegant labels on Brun's bottle describe the great variety, give the vintage and carry the name of his chateau. And now, they also carry a mandatory warning - the silhouette of a pregnant woman holding a glass with the universal flash mark across her bulging belly. The black and white logo may be minuscule, but Brown says it clutters his labor and could hurt sales.

Mr. FRANCOIS BRUN (Winemaker): (Through translator) For us, wine is anchored in our traditions and we are used to sharing it in a responsible way. We don't feel we are making a dangerous product for pregnant women or anyone else as long, as it is enjoyed with pleasure and moderation.

BEARDSLEY: Not surprisingly, winemakers here draw a clear distinction between their product and imported hard alcohols like scotch and vodka. For centuries, wine has been an integral part of French culinary tradition. France is the world's largest wine-producing nation and no meal here is considered complete without an accompanying wine.

Michel Craplet is a psychiatrist with the French Association of Alcoholism and Addiction, one of the groups that lobbied for the warning label. Craplet says the regulation met such resistance because it meant accepting that wine could be as dangerous as other alcoholic drinks.

Dr. MICHEL CRAPLET (Psychiatrist, French Association of Alcoholism and Addiction): Wine is a totem. It's a very important product in the culture not only in the agriculture but in the culture of France, in paintings, in literature wine is everywhere. So drinking too much wine or not drinking at all is concept to be a bad citizen.

(Soundbite of doorbell ringing)

BEARDSLEY: Bonjour monsieur.

In a wine shop in Paris' (unintelligible) owner Evres Scala(ph) is arranging his bottles. Scala said he doesn't want to talk about the new logo. He's still sieving over the smoking ban, but he continues to mutter under his breath about intrusive government regulations.

Outside on the sidewalk, a young couple is looking at Scala's champagne display in the window. A question about the logo amuses them. They're expecting their first child.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SALVEC MONDIE(ph): (Speaking in French)

BEARDSLEY: I think they are right to put the logo, but we don't really need it. Everybody already knows not to drink if you're pregnant said Salvec Mondie. You can drink in occasional glass, but it should be rare. And most future mothers don't drink at all.

Ms. MONDIE: (Speaking in French)

BEARDSLEY: For winemakers who export to the U.S., the new regulation may be a little less painful. They've been putting warning labels on their bottles for years.

For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.