June 21, 2007 / 8:45 AM / 12 years ago

French winemakers fret over Teetotal Sarkozy

A file photo of France's President Nicolas Sarkozy returning to the Elysee Palace after jogging in Paris May 17, 2007. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - French winemakers are disappointed that President Nicolas Sarkozy is teetotal and fear his clean-living image gives the wrong impression of France.

“Every time you see him on TV he’s jogging. He doesn’t like eating, he doesn’t like drinking, he doesn’t represent the culture of France,” said Serge Dombierer, who works for the Chateau de Mauvanne vineyard in Provence in southern France.

“President Jacques Chirac, at least he knew how to put the drinks away,” he added of Sarkozy’s predecessor who could often be seen enjoying wine and beer in visits around the country.

Sarkozy said in an interview on Wednesday he never touches alcohol. “I don’t like it,” he said in response to reports he may have been drunk at a recent press conference.

Some producers say Sarkozy should taste wine and then spit it out as winetasters do, just to show he was interested in a product that enshrines many French traditions, accounts for thousands of jobs and a slice of exports.

“I don’t think it’s good. He could at least have the intelligence to take it in and spit it out,” said Vincent Charleux, a winemaker for Gerard Bertrand.

“Given that wine is in crisis in France, he could at least make an effort. It gives a negative message.”

Many French winemakers are struggling with plummeting domestic consumption and fierce competition from new world producers such as Australia and Chile.

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