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French winemakers sound alarm over cheap imports

Winemakers in southern France have issued a sobering Christmas message by warning that some of them face ruin because of competition from cheap Spanish imports in French supermarkets.

A tumultuous year of wine politics in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region is ending with more complaints about supermarkets importing cheap wine from Spain.

French producers have argued that the Spanish origin of low-price bag-in-box (BIB) wine should be more visible to consumers.

‘There has been a huge increase in Spanish wine in France during the last two years,’ Florence Barthès, director of the Pays d’Oc wine union, told Decanter.com.

‘The supermarket brands have a reputation for quality, thanks to French wines,’ she said. But, she complained that supermarkets were now putting Spanish wines into BIBs. She said that retailers had labelled the wines correctly, but should make the switch from French to Spanish wine more visible on the packaging.

‘It’s unfair competition,’ she said.


‘If we let this go, nearly 12% of the volume produced in the IGP Pays d’Oc could disappear, equivalent to half the production of a department such as Gard,’ she said. The Gard lies on the eastern edge of Languedoc, north of the Hérault department near Montpellier.

‘These imports are legal but we ask that consumers be informed in a visible way so that they can make informed choices,’ Barthès said.

Critics say that both France and Spain are part of the EU single market and must accept competition transcending national boundaries.

Tension spilled into violence earlier this year.

Mobs of balaclava-clad winemakers claiming allegiance to the militant vintner group CRAV attacked a tanker and also a wine storage cellar in the region; because both were housing Spanish wine. Local wine unions condemned the violence.

Editing by Chris Mercer

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