Pesticides in French Wine
I can hear a soulful Edith Piaf lamenting, “Mon Dieu”. With the French Paradox we learned that drinking wine in moderation, with even a rich meal, may be beneficial to our health and lower chances of coronary heart disease. With Mireille Giuliano’s book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, we learned that wine was not necessarily even fattening. So why are we now getting barraged with negativity about French wines?
Within the country and all over Europe in fact, there has been a paradigm shift from “days of wine and roses” to heightened regulation at all junctures. At one point, the French required their journalists to add a disclaimer to every article that wine may be harmful to the health. Now, the country is creating even more ill will by trying to force even organic growers to use pesticides.
While French and other vineyards since the 1950’s have been struggling with the bacterial disease flavescence dorée, transmitted by leafhoppers, which causes leaves to yellow and grapes to shrivel, there is no clause that allows farmers employing natural, sustainable, organic, or even biodynamic methods to escape the French Ministry of Agriculture’ requirements to spray Pyrevert, a pesticide, in attempt to stem crop loss. Rather than working on regulations to promote natural grape growing, it seems the Ministry of Agriculture is more intent on creating a PR nightmare. They have even threatened to send one non-complying Burgundian producer to jail.
The law applies to the grapes only, and doesn’t take into account what happens when they are fermented. Recent tests of wines from Bordeaux and Southern France showed as many as 9 separate pesticides. While individual levels were within allowable limits, it is unclear what happens as they combine or accumulate. Tom Philpott of Mother Jones said “Groups of pesticides may have so-called “cocktail” or “synergistic” effects-that is, a pesticide mix may be more toxic than the sum of its parts.”
As with sustainable farming practices here in California, there is also concern for the health of the vineyard workers. Clusters of Parkinsons’ and other diseases are being aligned to the spraying of pesticides.
Do you think you will you drink or recommend less French wine now?
Are California wines cleaner, less toxic?