The violent actions of the CRAV ‘will escalate’, according to a former senior member of the winemakers’ pressure group.

Jean Huillet, now head of the winemakers’ union in the Hérault, told decanter.com there was a danger individuals could start operating independently of CRAV (the Regional Committee for Viticultural Action), the breakaway protest group which has claimed responsibility – or been blamed – for dozens of extreme actions in the past months.

‘There’s a risk that isolated individuals operating outside the CRAV could do something extremely dangerous,’ he said.

Huillet was an active member of the secretive organisation from 1973 to 1984. He said the current movement was smaller, less well organised and less effective than its previous incarnations, and that more violent splinter groups were operating under the CRAV banner.

‘It’s not what it used to be,’ he said. ‘Some winemakers are using the organisation as a front for their own, individual actions. There are people who are using the CRAV to express their own discontent. It has been badly used – people are signing CRAV on the walls when they’re not part of it.’

Huillet added that true CRAV actions were more organised and involved a larger number of people. ‘A true CRAV action can be recognised in its quality – much like wine,’ he said.

Although Huillet said the presence of the press was essential when he was part of a CRAV assault group that stormed a wine-carrying boat in Sète in 1981, he says that the situation now does not call for media coverage.

‘It was important then because we needed to expose the imports of cheap, artificial wine, of which at that time there was around 10m hectolitres in Europe. Now, the CRAV does not need the press. The less it’s talked about the better. It’s there to do its job, that’s it,’ he said.

He also defended the CRAV, whose actions are often seen as dangerous and violent.

‘They say we’re the ones who resort to violence but who committed the first act of violence? The economic violence visited on all the producers who’ve made so much effort on their wines for no reward,’ he said.

Bordeaux winemakers also came in for Huillet’s criticism.

‘We’ve made efforts. What have the Bordelais done? They’ve been making a load of rubbish for ages,’ he said, describing Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur as ‘de la merde’.

Written by Olive Styles