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Beaujolais distances itself from ‘quenelle’ wine

Beaujolais producers have distanced themselves from a local wine showing the controversial 'quenelle' sign on its label.

A wine named ‘Beaujolais Quenelle‘ and depicting a beret-wearing winemaker performing the sign was this week for sale online via a retailer named Sanguisterrae.

Some have associated the quenelle sign with antisemitism, likening it to an upside down Nazi salute with one arm down straight and the other placed across the chest. But, others argue it is merely anti-establishment.

Debate over its use has grown in recent months in both France and the UK, following high-level exposure that has included French footballer Nicolas Anelka performing the sign after scoring in the English Premier League.

Around 2,000 bottles of Beaujolais Quenelle were made by small-scale winemaker Jean-Paul Decourd, based in Chatillon, after he received an order from a private client.

When contacted by decanter.com, Decourd reiterated comments made to regional newspaper Le Progres that he ‘had no idea what the sign meant’ when the order was placed, in October last year.

The wine was this week on sale for €40.13 per six-bottle case, excluding tax, on the Sanguisterrae.fr website.

‘In our mind, it is a humorous way to entertain our customers and to show our dissatisfaction to the French rulling class,’ a spokesperson for Sanguisterrae told decanter.com.

The retailer’s owner is listed as a firm called ‘Culture Pour Tous‘. Official company records obtained from the French authorities show that the firm is registered to the same address in St Denis, Paris, as the secretariat of a political group named Egalite & Reconciliation.

That group, which also links to Sanguisterrae on its website, describes itself as in favour of national unity, with leftwing, working class sympathies and rightwing values. However, several political commentators say the group has links to France’s far right.

Trade body Inter Beaujolais has contacted winemaker Decourd and is keen to distance the wine region from the debate. ‘This is a storm in a teacup,’ its managing director, Jean Bourjade, told decanter.com.

‘I feel sorry for the grower, who did not know what the label was all about. It’s an isolated incident and a small production. We don’t want the Beaujolais region to be associated with this.’

The French comedian who claims to have invented the quenelle sign, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, was this week banned from entering the UK.

Written by Chris Mercer

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