Bordelais ‘twirl their moustaches’ as Languedoc suffers

  • Monday 23 January 2006

Civil war has broken out in France as southern vignerons lambast Bordeaux and invoke the shadow of apartheid to highlight their grievances.

After meetings to plan further demonstrations for February, two of Languedoc’s most prominent activists explicitly blamed Bordeaux for the current wine crisis in France. One compared the situation in French winemaking to that of apartheid.

‘It’s South Africa, with whites on one side and blacks on the other,’ Philippe Vergnes, head of the winemakers' union in the Aude region, told French newspaper Libération.

Jean Huillet, one-time activist in the militant winemakers’ group, CRAV, and Vergnes’ counterpart in the Hérault, said that Bordeax winemakers were dragging their feet while in the Languedoc they were working to deal with the 11m hectolitre surplus.

‘We continue to uproot [vines], we send millions of hectolitres to be distilled, while the Bordelais stuff themselves and twirl their moustaches,’ he said.

So far, 12,500ha, of vines have been destroyed in the Languedoc compared to 1,800ha in Bordeaux. The Bordelais also fall behind in distillation with only 185,000hl to Languedoc’s 1.2m hl.

Christian Delpeuch, head of Bordeaux wine trade body the CIVB, admitted that they were ‘far from the reaching the objectives’ in terms of distillation and uprooting.

Huillet was damning in his summing-up of the situation, implying that Bordeaux was waiting on the destruction of the Languedoc.

‘They know that we are economically more fragile than them,’ he said. ‘So they are waiting for us to crack first and grub up everything.’

This schism between the two regions appeared when Bordeaux winemakers refused to support a national day of action called by winemakers’ unions in the south of France. A demonstration, planned for 8 February in Paris, was cancelled.

‘Are Bordeaux’s lords of the manor scared of fighting on the streets with the rogues of the Aude, the Gard, the eastern Pyrenees and the Hérault, known for their large firecrackers and their taste for confrontation with the riot police?’ the left-wing Libération asked.

The unions are planning demonstrations in Nîmes, Béziers and Narbonne on 15 February.

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