Lauded French winegrower Paul-Vincent Avril poses in his cellar.
Photo: Pascal Parrot (Getty Images)

What does it take to ruffle the feathers of the unflappable and dignified French people? Tell them to put down their Bordeaux and Burgundy.

The Local France reports that the country’s Minister Of Solidarity And Health, Agnès Buzyn, and its president, Emmanuel Macron, are engaged in a bit of public sparring over Buzyn’s blunt remarks on the dangers of wine: “In terms of public health, it is exactly the same thing to drink wine, beer, vodka, whiskey, there is zero difference,” Buzyn told France 2. “French people have been told wine is the safe option, that it will bring benefits that other spirits won’t. That’s wrong. Scientifically, wine is alcohol like any other.”

Sacre bleu, indeed. Macron, who is known to enjoy two daily glasses of wine, dismissed Buzyn’s calls to end marketing campaigns that advertise wine as a “softer” alternative to other alcohol.

“There is a blight to public health when young people get drunk at an accelerated speed with alcohol or beer, but it is not the case with wine,” Macron said, flipping open a hip flask of ’93 Domaine Romanee-Conti. He said he does not intend to strengthen any of the laws surrounding advertising of alcohol.

The feud turned even hotter this week when French newspaper Le Figaro published an open letter from several doctors and professors who’ve thrown their support behind minister Buzyn. The letter was titled: “In the liver’s view, wine is alcohol!”


Asking the French—often vying with Italy for the title of the world’s top wine-producing country—to put down their beautiful national drink is akin to a health minister asking Americans to lay off cheeseburgers, or the Brits to limit themselves to four daily servings of fish-and-chips. Other nation’s indulgences make a glass or two of red wine a day look like a healthful cleanse.