The holiday season was soured by the always grandiloquent and grotesque declarations of the White House’s current occupant, to the great misfortune, as always, of all: French producers and American importers alike. This “new prohibition” on certain European products, and French wine in particular, seems set to have a lasting effect on consumer habits, as that is ultimately what Mr Trump wants. There is no better way of indirectly banning a product than making it unavailable, even for a brief period. Substitutes are easily found for the “condemned” products, and sometimes they are just as good as their vilified rivals. French wine, it must be admitted, these days largely trades on its prestige. Its long winegrowing tradition is one to which people bow their heads in respect before even uncorking the bottle. All the supposed or real nobility of the great estates is reproduced on a label and in a savoir faire that used to be thought inimitable, but which have now been widely exported to the point of being sometimes outdone by long and industrious competition. A winegrower would not dare do more than tacitly acknowledge it, but it is easier to create an excellent vintage than to sell it. If this free trade is threatened, it will not be just one season that will be ruined.
France has more to fear from Mr Trump’s mood swings than from heatwaves or vine-destroying hailstones. For a state that recognizes no celestial power, this might be a way for God to get himself off the hook for the next economic cataclysm, a sort of: “It’s not me, it’s him …”