Police in the Languedoc-Roussillon are ‘very scared’ that the actions of the CRAV will result in serious injury or death.

Philippe Ramon, sous-préfet of the southern French region, told decanter.com that the breakaway protest group, the Regional Committee for Viticultural Action (CRAV), posed a serious threat, both to the general public and themselves.

‘I’m worried there’s going to be a dramatic mistake. I’m very scared. As soon as people start shooting at tankers and handling explosive devices, there’s always going to be that possibility. They’re putting lives on the line,’ he said.

So far, the CRAV have claimed responsibility for multiple acts of violence including planting explosives in warehouses in Sète and at La Baume winery in Beziers, shooting at and burning a wine tanker, and vandalising government buildings and a distillery of imported wines.

The police are often seen as ineffective – one journalist accused them of watching a recent attack ‘impassively’ from their van – but Ramon was quick to establish the state’s position.

Detailing the police’s response to the latest violence he said that multiple dossiers were being compiled on more than 50 local winemakers stopped for questioning after the latest spate of violent attacks.

‘Once we’ve got a sufficiently large dossier we will pursue this through the proper legal channels,’ said Ramon. ‘I would like to make it clear that the state takes a firm stance on this matter. There will be absolutely no leniency in the courts.’

Ramon condemned the actions of the CRAV and said they were counter-productive to the image of Languedoc wines.

The group, currently protesting about the lack of French government aid for struggling winemakers, has been in existence for over 20 years although the police believe it lacks its original operational efficiency.

‘The group is not very well coordinated at both regional and local levels. Its leaders are finding it difficult to control their troops,’ said Ramon.

The sous-préfet also said the first government aid to 220 beleaguered winemakers would be sent out today.

Written by Oliver Styles