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.
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.