FRANCE: The Potted Planters

One of the many causes of the French Revolution was the royal tax on brandy, which the victors hastened to repeal. Napoleon reinstated the tax in 1806, but he generously allowed any Frenchman with his own vineyard or orchard to distill tax-free up to ten liters of pure alcohol a year (equal to more than five gallons of 100-proof brandy). Since then, through two empires, two monarchies and five republics. French peasants have guarded their home stills like so many Kentucky moonshiners—and French politicians have cherished the bouilleurs de cru (distillers of the countryside) as zealously as U.S. politicians...

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