Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Wine writing vs wine advertising

Christmas 2005? Remember it? Probably not. But the people at French regional paper Le Parisien do because an article of theirs on Champagne that came out at the time was later considered as advertising by a court. The paper was fined and told that any similar articles would have to carry health warnings.

At the time, (wine) journalists were up in arms. We knew the Evin Law (that regulates tobacco and wine advertising in France) was draconian, but we didn't know it would go that far. It was an insult to free speech, we said, to journalism as a trade, we added. The French health lobbies were flexing their muscles but we never thought this kind of thing would happen. It was all so absurd.

Or was it? If you can read French, take a look at this: Le coffret Clos des Mouches. If you can't, let me summarise: it's basically 150 words of advertising for a boxed set of two bottles from Burgundy's Clos des Mouches. 'The mysterious name', 'the great wine of Burgundy' and 'for decades Joseph Drouhin has devoted all of its passion and know-how to assure the staying power of this wine'.

Now, I admit Le Figaro's wine coverage is better than almost all of the other major French newspapers, and I'll also admit that this piece is obviously straight from Figaro magazine - not the main paper; and I don't particularly mind gushing wine reviews. But honestly. There are winery bosses out there who would sell their kidneys for that kind of exposure. Maybe the law in France has changed, but I'm surprised that piece hasn't got a health warning under it.

And whether or not this is a copy-and-paste job from a magazine, it hardly bodes well for the future of wine writing on the internet does it? I mean, if we're going to get flooded by this kind of stuff from every publication, there'll be a lot of google-wading to do. This is just another example.

You begin to wonder if the case against Le Parisien wasn't the wake-up call some of us needed.

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