The number of teetotallers in France  a group which includes former president Nicolas Sarkozy  has now reached 38 percent, the figures show.

London - There are many foods that you might think of as quintessentially French: baguettes, snails, a slice or two of fromage, garlic, onions and of course frogs’ legs.

But when it comes to choosing drinks that sum up the Gallic experience, there is only one contender: a large glass of wine.

But in reality, the French are falling out of love with their most famous tipple, official figures show.

Fewer than one in five French adults – 17 percent – now drink a glass of wine every day, the statistics from France’s ministry of agriculture reveal.

Caroline Plot, the official who oversaw the research, said the trend owed much to increasing awareness of the perceived health dangers associated with regular consumption of alcohol – particularly liver disease – along with the nation’s economic troubles.

“There has also been a real shift in consumption habits: fizzy drinks and fruit juices are taking the place of wine on the French table,” she added.

Stricter drink-driving laws have also put many off having a few glasses of wine after work, as would have been normal in the past.

In 1980, wine would be served at, on average, one meal in two. By 2010 that had fallen to one in four. The number of teetotallers in France – a group which includes former president Nicolas Sarkozy – has now reached 38 percent, the figures show.

The findings reflect a long-term trend that has seen France’s average wine consumption fall from 160 litres per adult per year in 1965 to 57 litres in 2010 – equivalent to a drop from three glasses to one glass per person per day.

But French consumption of wine still outstrips that of their British counterparts, who drink 28 litres per person each year, roughly equivalent to three glasses a week.

Study co-author Philippe Janvier said: “Alcohol in general and wine in particular have become a weekend thing, to be consumed in a convivial or celebratory setting.”

France is the world’s second largest wine producer, with only Italy ahead, and produces between 7 billion and 8 billion bottles a year.

The French are traditionally the biggest consumers of their own wines but the downward consumer trend has left wine producers relying increasingly on foreign markets.

However, demand for wine has also been falling in many of those other markets.

The result has been a wine glut, often called the wine lake, which has led to the distillation of wine into industrial alcohol as well as a government programme to pay French farmers to pull up their grape vines.

The market for champagne as well as the demand for the expensive ranked or classified wines has been relatively unscathed by the drinking downturn but these constitute only about five percent of French production. - Daily Mail