Review from the Wall Street Journal,
"On June 4, a thousand American homes will hold wine-and-cheese parties courtesy of the French government.
France has long played up its culture of culinary excellence. But now the government fears the country's highbrow food traditions may have alienated the average consumer. So, in an effort to boost sales of wine and cheese -- two of France's more lucrative exports -- it is trying to promote the laid-back apéritif, a moment before dinner when the French kick back with a glass of wine and some finger food.
To get the message across, the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, along with various wine and cheese producers, is spending around €1.6 million ($2.1 million) to sponsor cocktail parties in 19 countries across the world, including the U.S., Canada and Spain. The French government will cover 60% of the overall cost of the program, and the wine and cheese companies involved are underwriting the rest.
"Some people are terrorized by French gastronomy, especially French wine," says Marie-Noëlle Guerin, head of external relations at Sopexa, a food-marketing company hired to organize the events. "We want to show that French cuisine can be relaxed too."
Most of the parties will be large affairs hosted in city centers. In the U.S., however, the organizers are subsidizing a series of parties in private homes. Sopexa says it wants to capitalize on the increasing number of Americans entertaining at home as a money-saving tactic.
Sopexa hired House Party Inc., a U.S marketing company that arranges sponsored parties, to pitch the idea to 100,000 people over the Internet.
Would-be hosts are required to go to the House Party Web site and fill out a form. The company plans to choose 1,000 applicants who will receive coupons that offer 15% discounts on certain French wines and a free gift when they order French cheeses on specific Web sites.
They also will receive a hamper of French-themed party gear, including a corkscrew, an apron and a CD featuring pop singer Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
In return for the gifts, the hosts must hold a party, take photos and blog before and after, in an effort to help create a buzz about French wine and food. After the party, they will have to answer a questionnaire seeking their opinion of the products they tasted. French wine and cheese producers are planning to follow up the parties with a series of special promotions of French goods at local shops and supermarkets.
So far Sopexa says that more than 14,000 Americans have signed up to host a party. Phyllis Smith, a 38-year-old hospital worker in New York, is one of those hoping to be selected. "It's nice because it gives us a theme for our party," says Ms. Smith, who adds that she is hoping to invite 10 friends to the event. "Most of our parties are centered around wine anyhow."
Like many other applicants, Ms. Smith is already a fan of French food. The organizers are hoping that by showing their friends a good time, their hosts can persuade them to start buying French wine and cheese too.
To keep the parties affordable, the organizers chose some of France's less-expensive sparkling white wines, instead of Champagne. France's Iconic blue Roquefort cheese, which is taxed at 100% when imported into the U.S, was also crossed off the list as being too expensive.
Taste, too, was an issue. Sopexa said pungent cheeses were a little too "scary" for American palates. The French decided to stick to milder varieties, such as goat's cheese and a nutty-flavored hard cheese called Comté." • Streamers, napkins, tri-colored garland, stars Plus, (and this is the clincher!) one FCH host will win a trip for two to France and so will one party guest, courtesy of the French Government Tourist Office. And, to make it a totally interactive experience, each house party will have their own party page to post pictures, party tips, stories and videos before, during and after their parties that will also be streamlined on the national party page atwww.houseparty.com/FrenchCocktailHour for all eyes to see.
• Brochures with tips on how to throw the best FCH parties ever
• French music CDs, aprons, magnets, corkscrews
• Coupons from participating retailers www.igourmet.com and Sam's Wine & Spirits (www.samswine.com)
• Streamers, napkins, tri-colored garland, stars
Plus, (and this is the clincher!) one FCH host will win a trip for two to France and so will one party guest, courtesy of the French Government Tourist Office. And, to make it a totally interactive experience, each house party will have their own party page to post pictures, party tips, stories and videos before, during and after their parties that will also be streamlined on the national party page atwww.houseparty.com/FrenchCocktailHour for all eyes to see.