At last, French wine adverts are allowed to show some sparkle

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You can say that a wine tastes like blackcurrant with an aroma of violets and a suspicion of banana, if you want to. You cannot show a beautiful young woman with a glass of wine, unless she happens to be a wine producer, and she must hold the glass at arm's length.

You can say that a wine tastes like blackcurrant with an aroma of violets and a suspicion of banana, if you want to. You cannot show a beautiful young woman with a glass of wine, unless she happens to be a wine producer, and she must hold the glass at arm's length.

French politicians have reached a historic compromise in a long running, and frequently confusing, battle over the law restricting the advertising of wine and other alcoholic drinks.

Wine producers can, when the new law is finalised, boast of the special qualities associated with regional wines, appellations, or terroirs (an untranslatable French word meaning growing conditions which make one wine different from another).

But they will still be banned from using famous faces or beautiful models to advertise wines or any image that associates wine with sex, parties, fun or young people. Any picture showing wine being drunk will remain illegal.

The compromise text, from the health minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, has been accepted by the wine trade and most health lobbyists, but it has been attacked as an abrupt and dangerous movement in reverse by road safety campaigners.

Wine producers have been campaigning for years to soften or abolish a 14-year-old law, the Loi Evin, which places austere restrictions on drinks advertising. In essence, the law allows producers to advertise little more than the names and technical descriptions of their drinks. A collapse in overseas sales of wines aimed at the middle and lower end of the market and a steady erosion in wine consumption by the French - especially the young - has produced a new offensive against the Loi Evin in the past year.

In October, the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, proposed an amendment which would have almost exempted wine from the law. The government refused to accept this text but has persuaded members of the upper house, the Senate, to agree a compromise allowing wine-growers to boast of the special characteristics of regional and appellation côntrolée wines.

"Our producers should be able to make their products known in their own country," said Aymeri de Montesquiou, a senator who supported the new text. "A genuine education in taste will help our fellow citizens consume better, not more."

Professor Claude Got, a veteran road safety campaigner, has said the change in the law is meant to reverse a slump in wine consumption in France, in other words, to increase wine drinking. This, he says, is bound to increase the number of fatal road accidents and other deaths attributed to alcohol.

The two houses of parliament are expected to agree on the wording of the law in the next few weeks. Some of the more bizarre aspects of the advertising rules will remain unchanged. It is illegal - and will remain illegal - to use images of beautiful women to advertise wine. But it is legal to show pictures of people in in the wine trade. Advertisements for Sauternes have exploited this by showing a picture of a beautiful young woman called Catherine holding a glass of wine. Catherine is identified in the ad as a viticultrice à Sauternes, a wine producer from Sauternes. The ad was initially rejected, but only because she was holding the glass too close to her mouth. A new, legal, version showed her holding the glass out to the camera.

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