Wine is different from other alcohols and cannot be blamed for binge drinking, French minister claims
He noted that alcohol addiction is a 'real problem'
“I don't think wine is comparable to other alcohols,” Guillaume told BFM television this week.
He noted that alcohol addiction is a “real problem”, notably among young people with binge drinking.
Guillaume added: “But I've never seen, to my knowledge - unfortunately perhaps - a youngster leaving a nightclub drunk because they drank Cotes-du-Rhone [French wine].
The politician went on to blame youth binge drinking on spirits and mixers.
The comments sparked a backlash, with Michel Reynaud, head of France's Addiction Action Fund, suggesting the minister visit hospitals to see people being treated after consuming 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 criticised the minister.
He highlighted that nearly a fifth of young people in France binge drink wine and 25 per cent admit to getting drunk on champagne, citing figures from the French Observatory of Drugs and Addiction (OFDT).
“Wine is alcohol like any other for getting drunk,” Basset wrote on Twitter.
The minister’s comments come a week after specialists criticised a new anti-addiction plan from the French government for lacking what they claim to be any concrete provisions required to tackle alcoholism.
This isn’t the first time a French official has come under fire for defending wine.
Last year, President Emmanuel Macron made a staunch defence of drinking wine twice a day and promised not to tighten the so-called Evin law, which restricts advertising on alcoholic beverages.
"It is a blight on public health when young people get drunk at an accelerated speed with alcohol or beer, but this is not the case with wine," said Mr Macron, adding that critics shouldn’t "bug the French" over their appreciation for the beverage.
Macron's comments came a month after health minister Agnès Buzyn caused anger among winemakers in France by denouncing claims that wine could be beneficial and increase longevity.
“The French population is led to believe that wine protects them, that it offers benefits that other alcohol does not,” Ms Buzyn, a haematologist, said in a television interview.
“It’s false. Scientifically, wine is an alcohol like any other,” she said.
A recent survey by the French government, published by Europe1 radio, revealed that more than a third of men (36 per cent) and 15 per cent of women in France drink alcohol to a level considered “at risk”.
According to the OFDT, wine represents 58 percent of alcohol consumption in France.
France has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in Europe, topped by Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, according to data from the World Health Organization.