French culture has always been a charming and annoying nexus of elegance, arrogance and paranoia, but now the country has reached its nadir, and not all the other nadirs that came before but a new, even more significant one. In the nation that serves flag of distress as a model for excellence in wine-making, many of whose wines are honored as exemplars for the rest of the world, where the integration of wine and food into daily life seems rational and essential, in this nation, I say, articles about wine in newspapers and magazines must carry health warnings. Notice that I didn’t say “advertisements about wine in newspapers and magazines,” but articles, journalism, in other words, stories that review wines or provide overviews of wines or wine regions and so on. The purpose of advertising is, of course, to sell wine, while the purpose of journalism is to inform and educate; the line between those functions, as far as a court in Paris is concerned, no longer exists. All public utterances about wine, apparently, may corrupt the young.

To further the sense of prohibition, the French government has proposed a law limiting advertising for wine, beer and spirits on the Internet to certain sites at limited hours, and the advertising could not be by a third-party, i.e., a public relations or marketing firm. Makes alcohol sounds like pornography, doesn’t it? One result of these measures is that Microsoft Adcenter removed all wine merchants from its client list in France. Google Adsense and Yahoo are expected to follow Microsoft’s lead.

Oh, and a proposal has been made by the government to raise taxes on wine as much as 16 percent.

Most of this news goes back to the summer or first of the year, but I mention it here because (as Eric Asimov pointed out in his blog The Pour), the General Association of Wine Production in France is calling for boycotts on October 30 to call attention to the situation. No mention has been made about what form this boycott would take, but the association represents 500,000 people in the wine business, according to

Sacre bleu, what a state the world is in when France, long the symbol of the sensible indulgence in the pleasures of the body and mind, becomes more puritanical and politically correct than America.