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No French Lunch without Wine for Iranian President

Posted: Saturday, 30 January 2016 14:19


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No French Lunch without Wine for Iranian President

Jan 30: The recent news in the media about France cancelling the Lunch to be hosted by President François Hollande for the visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the 3-nation tour of Europe this week, is old wine in the new bottle since the decision to call off was announced and reported last November, this situation being in sharp contrast to a similar visit by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last April when wine was served with dinner for the teetotaler and his team whereas a similar Banquet in India would not see any alcohol served

Click For Large ViewThe diplomatic lunch with François Hollande was reportedly dropped as the French refused to bow to demands for halal meat to be served and without any wine.  A Report by Independent on November 11, 2015 had said, ‘Ahead of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s landmark European trip kicking off this weekend, French officials reportedly nixed plans for a formal meal in Paris with President François Hollande following a dispute over the menu. The Iranians, according to France’s RTL Radio, insisted on a wine-free meal with halal meat — a request based on Islamic codes that amounted to culinary sacrilege in France, a nation that puts the secular ideals of the Republic above all else.’

The proposed lunch was planned in an upmarket Paris restaurant for the Iranian President for whom this is a historic trip-a first for an Iranian leader in the past seventeen years. An alternative invitation with a presumably wine -free breakfast was rejected by the offended Iranians because they felt it would appear too cheap. France cherishes its gastronomy and is not willing to give any cultural concessions citing republican traditions, according to Independent.

Earlier, during his visit to Italy before France, wine was not served at the official dinner held in Mr Rouhani’s honour in Rome. This is reportedly a standard Italian diplomatic gesture for visiting Muslim dignitaries. It is any one’s guess whether this gesture helped Italy sign business deals worth around €16 billion.

The incident also highlights the diplomatic tolerance and flexibility of India. When Prime Minister Modi visited France on a similar tour in April last year, 3 top quality French wines were served from Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux at the State Banquet- Champagne Drappier La Grande Sendrée 2005, Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches Premier Cru 2009 and Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1999.

The Indian Constitution discourages the use of alcohol and therefore, no wine or other alcohol is served at Indian State Banquets. Indian dignitaries are known to raise the toast with a glass of water only. (Indian Wine Academy and delWine strongly support and advocate serving Indian wines at the State Banquets in India and Indian embassies overseas which is now being done gradually). However, our government did not raise a fuss about the different French culture and tradition. This could have played a small role in the French President agreeing to visit India as a Chief Guest at the Annual Republic Day Parade celebrating 67 years of India becoming a Republic, on Tuesday January 26.

Ironically, Iran (Persia) is known as one of the oldest wine producing nations in the world and Shiraz grape popularized by France might have originated in the Iranian city of Shiraz which was known to have been popular also with Mughal emperors who ruled India before the British. Although, according to historical notes, wine was imported from Iran, and later the grape was even grown in India for the British wine drinkers in collaboration with Iranian businessmen, the Islamic Revolution banned the use of alcohol in 1979. Recently it announced a proposal that will aim to ban even the mention of the word ‘Wine’ in all the new books. For details, please visit ‘Wine’ may be soon extinct in Iran

click for earlier Articles

‘Wine’ may be soon extinct in Iran

Blog: GIFT for Indian Wines at State Banquets

Subhash Arora

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Tags: President François Hollande, President Hassan Rouhani, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, France

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