The anniversary of the 1907 Winegrower’s Revolt in the south of France is being commemorated with exhibitions, statues, banners – and explicit threats.
This September, during the traditional European Culture Day that takes place on September 19-20, the Languedoc-Roussillon region has taken the Winegrower’s Revolt as its theme.
Special events will take place in the village of Marseillan, where the leader of the uprising lived and worked, while commemorative objects, from banners to statues, will be placed in villages around the region.
Local museums and wine properties will have exhibitions on related topics such as how to preserve the viticultural landscape of the Languedoc against increasingly industrialised winemaking practises.
June 2007 is the 100th anniversary of the uprising – the first time that southern French winemakers voiced their frustration through angry demonstrations that flooded over into violence.
Cheap wine from Algeria was flooding the Midi, and winemakers were going bankrupt en masse. Marcellin Albert, an innkeeper and winemaker from Marseillan, organised The Winegrowers’ Revolt, with huge demonstrations in Montpellier, Narbonne and Béziers involving up to 800,000 demonstrators that led to six deaths.
Remy Pech, a local historian who has been researching the revolt, has commented, ‘It is important to remember an event that shaped not just the region but the entire country.’
At the same time the protest group CRAV (Comité Regional d’Action Viticole) – which over the past few years has been responsible for bombings, attempted sabotage on TGV tracks and other direct action – appeared recently on local TV with the exhortation, ‘Wine producers, we appeal to you to revolt. Show yourselves to be the worthy successors of the rebels of 1907, when people died so that future generations might earn their living from the land.’
Other events to remember the centenary have been going on throughout the year in Languedoc-Roussillon.
In April, a Vignerons d’Europe conference was held in Montpellier in conjunction with Slow Food France. Over 1,000 winemakers from around Europe met at the conference, and the centenary was used as a basis for discussing the current wine crisis.
Written by Jane Anson