US President Donald Trump has ruffled feathers across the Atlantic with his declaration that American wine is better than that produced in France, provoking an angry response, with one French politician describing his reasoning as “completely moronic” – but what do you think?
Self-proclaimed teetotaller Mr Trump made his claim in a series of angry tweets last Friday after France unveiled plans to tax multinational firms such as Google. French authorities have suggested such companies pay minimal corporate tax in countries in which they are not base – but Mr Trump suggested the move would target US tech giants unfairly.
He posted: “France just put a digital tax on our great American technology companies.
“If anybody taxes them, it should be their home Country, the US.
“We will announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron’s foolishness shortly.
“I’ve always said American wine is better than French wine!”
Many took his comments to be a thinly-veiled threat to slap tariffs on French wine imports, with French agriculture minister Didier Guillaume particularly incensed.
Speaking on French television in reference to Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, he said: “It’s absurd, in terms of having a political and economic debate, to say that if you tax the ‘GAFAs’, I’ll tax wine. It’s completely moronic.
“This is the third time the US president has threatened a tax, the third time in a year. We’ll see if he goes through with it.
Mr Guillaume pointedly added: “American wine is not better than French wine.”
The French wine-growing region of Bordeaux is famous throughout the world, while California, featured in the cult Paul Giamatti film Sideways, has a growing reputation.
According to the Statista website, France produced 49.1 million hectolitres of wine in 2018, second only to Italy with 54.8 million.
US production was smaller – 23.9 million – but still enough to make it the world’s fourth-biggest wine producer.
Unsurprisingly, Alastair Viner, head buyer for London-based wine merchants Hedonism Wines, was reluctant to take sides.
Mr Viner, who coincidentally had just returned from France, said: “I don’t want to spark a diplomatic incident here so I’m sitting on the fence slightly.
“I definitely think both of them have their merits!
“France has all the history and has built up a reputation and has established itself as a great wine producer, with wines drunk by Kings and Queens throughout the centuries.
“By contrast the California region is part of a much newer nation.
“I suppose the difference reflects the difference between the old and new worlds.
“Clearly a lot of it is down to one’s own tastes – although I must say quite a lot of people prefer California wines because they are more upfront and juicy.”
Mr Viner also stressed there was no quarrel among the winemakers themselves.
He explained: “A lot of people who work in California will have worked in France and vice-versa so there’s a lot of cross-fertilisation.”