French winemakers have sent tens of thousands of litres of Spanish wine gushing onto the motorway in southern France, in protest at mass produced foreign wine entering the country.

Infuriated French winemakers in Languedoc-Roussillon turned on the taps of tankers full of red wine being transported in bulk from Spain, allowing it to gush out onto the motorway tarmac.

Angered by reports of a sharp rise in Spanish wine imports coming into France in 2015, 150 French growers gathered at Le Boulou motorway toll station, fewer than 10 miles from the Spanish border, to monitor the number of wine tankers coming into France.

The high number of tankers passing through caused anger among the growers, some of whom hijacked five tankers and flooded the motorway with tens of thousands of litres of red wine.

French grower protest

Angry French growers graffiti the sides of the Spanish tankers.

Frédéric Rouanet, president of the winegrowers of Aude, was quoted by Vitisphere as saying that French producers were being priced out of their own market by cheap, bulk imports.

But, some in the French wine world said the producers’ actions were hard to justify.

‘I do not know all of the details of this incident, but winemakers have to accept competition – we are all in Europe,’ said Olivier Casteja, of Château Doisy-Védrines in Sauternes, on the sidelines of Bordeaux en primeur week.

The French protesters suggested concern about Spanish growing regulations, scrawling ‘wine not compliant’ across the leaking tankers. ‘We took samples of each of these loads,’ Rouanet was reported as saying.

Spain has produced 36.7m hectolitres of wine from the 2015 harvest, down 4% on a bumper 2014, according to initial estimates from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine.

Italy produced 48.9m hectolitres and France 47.4m hectolitres from 2015.

Languedoc is home to a militant winemaker group known as CRAV, which has carried out similar actions over several decades in order to protest at lack of government support for French wine. However, CRAV members in recent times have worn balaclavas to avoid being identified by police. Those attacking the tankers this week wore no masks.

Additional reporting by Chris Mercer.

 

  • Banjo Zee

    well, they kinda stand for what they do, and take it seriously… if you get a chance, try any of the wines from Pierre Cros, who even presents himself as a “vigneron militant”, and maybe you will understand why.

  • Federico Fefe

    No Sir, that is not what I meant. You can’t compare wine and steel. No one can make the same product even with the same grapes than Italy or France. You need the right soil and climate. Prices depend on the quality of the product. There are cheap French wine as well. Here the main problem is that France doesn’t want share the market with other countries. They want to export their wine but not import it from abroad. They are just selfish… This is what I think.

  • Jonathan Hesford

    I didn’t say all Italian wine is cheap or bad. I said that Italy, using its EU agriculture subsidies, makes possible the production of bulk wine at lower prices that can be done in France, just like how China can make steel cheaper than any country in Europe.

  • Federico Fefe

    “Italy can make cheaper wine mainly because they use their EU agriculture funds to subsidise winegrape production.”
    What?! Do you really think that Italy is the first wine producer in the world because it’s cheap? haha you don’t know anything about wine. Italy and France use different varietals of grapes. France uses mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Italy uses Barbera, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese. Italy has more than 300 native varietals of grape. Here there is nothing to do with wine prizing, Italy is synonymous of quality!

  • David

    This very sad. I love French and Spanish wines. Why in heaven’s name can’t people live and let live?

  • Tommy

    BTW, in Spanish you have to use articles (I know, I know, it’s hard), it’s “besame EL culo”

  • kennethone

    This definitely has nothing to do with french winemakers being elitists about their wine and champagne and refusing to lower their prices because of competition, definitely. This would be just like Apple intimidating PC and android manufacturers because they make a better product for a lower price.

  • Texas Aggie 1966

    Besa me culo, chico

  • My War Too

    Disgraceful and wasteful!

  • GeveryC

    Lafayette springs to mind as well as this guy

  • Jonathan Hesford

    The EU doesn’t provide a free market for alcoholic drinks.

  • Texas Aggie 1966

    Yep, totally uneducated American! Speak fluent French, lived there for years, studied in their schools, have a MAed, two undergraduate degrees and have been in and out of France for over 50 years…..yep, uneducated.

  • GeveryC

    I am shocked by the low level of discourse here and the knee jerk anti-French remarks. Perhaps a group such as the one described in this article would not be taking such drastic measures but for the threat of economic ruin. American farmers are subsidized in a manner which is both economically and ecologically unsound yet here you cannot say a word against the farm lobby or the more appropriately named Agribusiness.

    Comments about shooting French people are beyond the pale. Comments about wars are horrific. France shares a border with Germany which has made them first up for two bloody wars. As one comment or noted, have you heard of Napoleon? Well my fellow Americans might not as many have not read a book since High School.

    Exit the EU? The British may do just that. Can France be far behind? The EU was not to be a lopsided affair where nations with cheap goods and unregulated industry could take advantage. On the model of the original Benelux it should be a mutually beneficial cooperative and sane affair.

  • maxiii

    The difference is all in the taxes and the charges the winerys has to pay…, they pay a lot and lot less charges and taxes in spain than french winery has to… If they keep importing cheap cheap wines in France, the small winery will not be able to live and will get bought by the chinese, the americans or the russians…

  • buelligan

    I see the EU isn’t working quite the way the French intended. Free movement??

  • Bruno Pereira

    Actually it happened two months before in Galicia, with milk coming from Portugal. Sad times that EU are facing.

  • Jonathan Hesford

    The comments below are more suited to the Daily Mail than a wine magazine. I would have thought Decanter readers were above the usual Froggy-bashing.

    I don’t condone the actions of these people but let me try to explain. They are not winemakers. They are grape growers who belong to cooperatives. They don’t make wine brands, they make generic wine of their region, which is sold in bulk to negociants. Some of these French negociants are choosing cheap wines from Spain and supplying that as the “free pichet” that people get with their meal in French restaurants. Consumers naturally think the wine is French. So I can sympathise with protests against that. British milk farmers would do the same if cheap imported milk was being handed out to British schoolkids.

    Secondly, Spain and Italy can make cheaper wine mainly because they use their EU agriculture funds to subsidise winegrape production. France doesn’t do that. Therefore it’s impossible to make wine in France for 40€ a hectolitre but possible in Spain because government funds have been used to make it cheap. Again, I can see why it annoys French grape growers.

  • Dominic Lombard

    Obviously you haven’t heard about Napoleon……..

  • Antoine Bisset

    Par for the French course. British meat destroyed at the Channel ports. The French police are corrupt and complicit. It has been like this for the last thirty years of which I have experience. I did suggest to my MP that we send Royal Marines with our lorries with orders to shoot French farmers if they attempted to interfere with the loads.
    He seemed not to be too keen on the idea.

  • Matt Johnston

    Just because the wines are cheap doesn’t mean that people will choose it over your brand. Every producer of wine, (and other consumer products), creates a brand and then aims to differentiate it from its competitors. If the low priced, cheap, bulk imports into France are hurting these brands, then its time to reinvigorate those brands rather than complaining about the success of others.
    The French have the most defined wine regions and rules of anywhere in the world, so if someone particularly wants to drink something from those regions, they are after a particular style, flavour and quality. Cheap, or even expensive wines from Spain, or anywhere else won’t be the same. Spain has some great wines, and their flavours are uniquely Spanish. The two cannot be confused by consumers who enjoy ether one. Lets celebrate the differences of wines from around the world and not resort to Liquid Terrorism.

  • Vicente Salaner

    Why don’t you report that they did this in front of French police, which stood by without intervening at all or arresting anyone? Par for the course for French farmers in the Midi, of course: they do the same with fruit and vegetables all the time. That’s their idea of being in the European Union. Or maybe their idea of Frexit.

    By the way – no such action has ever been undertaken by Spanish farmers against French, Portuguese or Moroccan wine, fruit or vegetables.

  • Thomas Jones

    Are they in Europe or not? Time to boycott French wines!!

  • NorwegianThirtySomething

    French farmers…

    Only in France can one have “militant winemakers” 😛