The winegrowers of the Midi “throw a big bottle in the countryside”

Gathered on Saturday in Narbonne to demonstrate, they denounce in particular the European Union, mass distribution and the unfair competition of Spanish wines.

“The anger is rising a notch every day”: from 1,500 to 4,000 winegrowers, according to the sources, demonstrated on Saturday in Narbonne to challenge the presidential candidates and demand an end to the “unfair competition” of Spanish wines. On a platform set up at the foot of the town hall of Narbonne, Frédéric Rouanet, president of the Syndicat des vignerons de l’Aude, harangued demonstrators from all over the wine-producing Midi, from the Pyrénées-Orientales to the Gard, via the ‘Herault.

“Our patience has limits”, launched the number one of the first union of winegrowers in France, which claims 4000 members. “We came to throw a big bottle of wine into the election campaign,” added the trade unionist. “If the candidates do not listen to us, the speeches will change after the harvest,” he warned.

“You can no longer leave us alone in the face of profit madness. Was Europe made to protect us or to kill us?” added Rouanet. He denounced wine imports which “continue to progress” and a large distribution which “sells Spanish wines made up of French wines”.

Frédéric Rouanet, president of the Syndicat des vignerons de l’Aude.

First exporting wine region

“We no longer want imported wines,” said Xavier Fabre, president of the Union of Gard winegrowers. “Our cellars are full. We have 25% of our production left to sell and yet brands are selling Spanish wines pretending that it is French”, enraged the producer.

Friday evening, the premises of a wine merchant, in particular Spanish, were set on fire in Béziers, in the neighboring Hérault. The action was claimed by the Regional Wine Action Committee (CRAV), a kind of armed wing of the winegrowers of the South.

“They put a bell tower and a beret on the label and they sell that for French wine,” added Arnaud Aribaud, president of Young Farmers of Aude. Winegrowers consider themselves victims of unequal treatment within the European Union. Spanish and Italian wines “benefit from lower charges on their employees” and more lax environmental regulations, accuses the Union of Winegrowers of Aude. France’s leading wine-exporting land, Languedoc produces one-third of French wine. Some 30,000 winegrowers cultivate its 246,000 hectares.

The winegrowers of the South have all the more a feeling of frustration that they have made their own aggiornamento in recent decades: for a long time the land of inexpensive table wine, the sector has largely refocused on quality. A large part of the less qualitative vines were uprooted: half of the surfaces in the Aude between 1995 and 2012. On the international market, the Corbières and other La Clape are now recognized and the region exports around 35% of its production. But many winegrowers are still suffering, especially those who continue to produce table wine, which faces direct competition from cheaper Spain.

The demonstration dispersed calmly at the end of the afternoon but, a few hours later, a few dozen winegrowers ransacked the wine section of a supermarket at the southern entrance to Narbonne, after blocking the access with burnt tires.

A demonstrator tries to block access to a road with a burnt tire. RAYMOND ROIG/AFP

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