A masked gang of militants claiming allegiance to the shadowy French winemaker group CRAV have attacked one of southern France's biggest wine companies, smashing windows and setting fire to offices in protest at 'cheap wine imports'.
30 balaclava-clad militants ransack Vinadeis offices in Languedoc
Menacing video message criticises wine imports
Group claims allegiance to militant winemaker group Comité Régionale d’Action Viticole (CRAV)
‘We are in shock,’ says winery spokesperson
Tensions in Languedoc-Roussillon reached a peak on the evening of 19 July when 30 militants attacked Sudvin, a subsidiary of co-operative producer and merchant Vinadeis, in Maureilhan near Béziers.
Balaclava-clad protesters wielding crowbars and what appeared to be makeshift axes stormed the offices.
While some activists were breaking windows, cabinets, furniture and computer equipment, others set fire to tires in several offices. The tanks were also targeted, but were empty.
Video footage of the attack obtained by France 3 shows the attackers smashing their way into the Vinadeis offices, before vandalising rooms indiscriminately and then starting a fire that appears to quickly spread.
The attackers claimed allegiance to Languedoc-Roussillon’s Comité Régionale d’Action Viticole (CRAV), a shadowy group of winemakers that has existed for more than 50 years and intermittently used violence to pursue its goals.
The letters ‘CRAV’ were daubed on vats and walls.
In the France 3 footage, one balaclava-clad militant delivered a message to camera as others stood behind with arms folded; one holding a large pair of wire cutters.
The attackers said local winemakers were sitting on full vats of wine only weeks ahead of harvest, and blamed big companies in Languedoc for ‘importing cheap wine’.
‘We are in shock,’ said a Vinadeis spokesperson, who added that the company was assessing the damage at the Sudvin site, which is primarily used to handle bulk wine.
‘The fire caused extensive damage on the premises of the site inaugurated in May, [but] fortunately without causing any casualties,’ the spokesperson said.
Why was Vinadeis targeted?
The company was not an obvious target.
Joël Castany, president of Vinadeis, told the local l’Independent newspaper in April this year that Spain was not a core part of his business, making up around 10%.
Vinadeis was previously named Val d’Orbieu-Uccoar and is one of the largest wine companies in the Languedoc-Roussillon, acting as both a producer and a merchant.
It is historically a strong supporter of Languedoc wines with roots in the co-operative movement. It employs hundreds of winemakers and spans 17,000 hectares of vines.
Reporting by Chris Mercer and Yohan Castaing.
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