France's agriculture minister Didier Guillaume has provoked controversy in the country after saying wine is different from other alcohol and rarely can be the cause of binge drinking.
The minister’s comments were deemed unhelpful by addiction experts as France is suffering from one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in Europe, with wine being the most popular drink in the country.
“I don't think wine is comparable to other alcohols,” Guillaume told BFM television, according to the Local. “Alcohol addiction is a real problem, notably among young people with binge drinking and so on.”
“It's a real problem but I've never seen, to my knowledge -- unfortunately perhaps -- a youngster leaving a nightclub drunk because they drank Cotes-du-Rhone [French wine],” he added, before blaming youth binge drinking on spirits and mixers.
“I don't think wine is comparable to other alcohols … Alcohol addiction is a real problem … but I've never seen … a youngster leaving a nightclub drunk because they drank Cotes-du-Rhone [French wine].”
The comments sparked a backlash, with Michel Reynaud, head of France's Addiction Action Fund, advising the minister to visit hospitals to see people being treated after drinking too much wine.
“What blindness! Mr. Guillaume, all doctors invite you to take a tour of the emergency room on a bullfighting night,” Reynaud said. “To be more precise, every day there are people with acute alcohol poisoning due to wine.”
Bernard Basset, vice president of the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction (ANPAA), also slammed the minister, pointing out that nearly a fifth of youngsters in France binge drink wine, according to the outlet.
“Wine is alcohol like any other for getting drunk,” Basset wrote on Twitter.
The minister’s comments come amid government plans to curb alcoholism in the country, which has been criticized as inadequate.
This isn’t the first time a French official has come under fire for defending wine.
President Emmanuel Macron said last year that he drinks wine at lunch and dinner and criticized the calls to introduce measures against alcohol advertising, asking to “give the French a break.”