Opposition to health warnings on French wine. Picture by Tony Gentile for Reuters.
Calls for health warnings on wine bottles have been branded unacceptable and damaging the culinary soul of France.

Calls for bigger health warnings on wine bottles in France have been branded unacceptable and damaging the culinary soul of the European country.

As a reaction to draft plans by the nation's health minister Anges Buzyn - with the aim of reducing the consumption of alcohol by pregnant women and minors - many of France's top producers have angrily hit out at the notion in a collective retort.

The government efforts would see two 2 cm-wide logos in red placed on the front of every wine bottle, warning against the health issues and illegality for drinking during pregnancy or under the age of 18 respectively.

Opposition from winemakers

The new proposals have caused outrage amongst 64 of the nation's most famous winemakers - including Cheval Blanc - and top champagne houses, who have accused the government of spreading "fear".

In a collective statement to Le Figaro, they said: "Every day, by exporting our produce, we share with the world, novices and wine buffs alike, a part of the soul of France. Every day, our cellars, our domains and chateaus, our winemaking landscapes, welcome thousands of tourists come to discover this France, bosom of the art de vivre that is the envy of the world and where wine plays a leading role."

Bottle of Louis Jadot Brouilly Cru Beaujolais wine made from the Gamay grape in France. Flickr (Robert R. Ireton III)
The collective argued the ministry was risking "sacrificing" that by making the alcohol beverage a "criminal product".

Pierre-Henri Gaget of Maison Louis Jadot revealed that the winemakers didn't want to be seen in the same way as tobacco products, and insisted the "spontaneous" protest would rise in numbers if the government didn't take a step back.

He argued: "We don't carry the plague and don't want to be tarred with the same brush as cigarette manufacturers.

"To stick two warnings on the front label with a red line through them is unbearable. Next, they'll be slapping photos with cancer victims and saying wine is to blame."

Warnings were initially introduced 11 years ago after the French government was sued by several mothers who gave birth to babies diagnosed with foetal alcohol syndrome, and claimed they weren't alerted to the dangers of consuming alcohol whilst pregnant.

Meanwhile, over 8,000 children are born each year in France with physical or mental health problems caused by drinking alcohol whilst the baby is developing.

Speaking when the idea of bigger labels was originally dismissed by the government, paediatrician Dr Denis Lamblin blasted the behaviour of the wine houses.

The doctor - who is also head of an association campaigning to ensure pregnant women are made more aware of the risks of alcohol consumption - said: "Producers do everything to camouflage it. Why are there photos of malformed foetuses on cigarette packets when the consequences of smoking during pregnancy are less dramatic than those of alcohol."