Legal Drinking Age in France

Visiting as a young adult or accompanied by parents, it’s normal for a first-timer to know whether you are old enough to drink in France. As home to Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, France is well known as the home of wine and you don’t want to miss such drinking experience.

Or perhaps you’re a parent bringing older teens on your trip and you wonder whether they’re allowed that small glass of wine at dinner as a special treat.

So how old is old enough to drink in France?

18. That is the legal drinking age in Paris, Cannes and the rest of France. This similar to many other countries such as Greece, Mexico and certain parts of Canada. What this means is that individuals 18 years old and above may legally purchase alcohol — wine, beer, cider, perry, mead, crème de cassis and juices from fermented fruits or vegetables that contain 1.2 to 3 per cent alcohol, natural sweet wines from controlled cultivation — in supermarkets, convenience stores and other authorized retailers in France. This also applies in restaurants, bars and clubs where alcohol is served.

Although this isn’t always strictly enforced, bring along your ID with you when attempting to buy in supermarkets or order in bars.

Until 2009, the legal drinking age in the country is 16 but was revised to 18, under a law that’s primarily designed to protect health of younger citizens of France to fight growing epidemic of teenage binge-drinking. This law is also aligned with many other European countries.

Under such premise, enforcement has also been tightened so violators who sell alcoholic beverage to underage minors may be fined by up to 7,500 euros.

The law allows mayors to ban takeaway sales of alcohol in their areas between 8pm and 8am.

France, currently third, and once the world’s biggest wine producer, has an alcohol consumption down from 17.7 liters per person per year in 1961, peaking in 1973 with 20.8 per head, to less than 9.1 liters in 2012. Yet, France remains as one of the heaviest drinking nations according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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