Vinexpo organisers are aware of the ‘threat of demonstrations’ at next week’s trade fair in Bordeaux, but insiders say they are unlikely to be on the destructive scale recently witnessed in the south of France.
Both Bordeaux police and senior union officials – while fully aware of the escalating violence in the south – suggest militant winegrowers will not be mounting any violent demonstrations.
Violence in the south of France has frequently been laid at the door of the Comite Regional d’action Viticole (CRAV) a militant organisation which has claimed responsibility for multiple acts including planting explosives in warehouses in Sète and at La Baume winery in Beziers, shooting at and burning a wine tanker, numerous acts of vandalism, and sabotage of railway signalling equipment.
CRAV and other groups are protesting what they consider the government’s inaction in the face of the worsening wine crisis, and the import of cheap foreign wines.
Yesterday police in the Languedoc-Roussillon told decanter.com they are ‘very scared’ that the actions of the CRAV will result in serious injury.
However Jean Huillet, head of the winegrowers union in the Herault and former CRAV operative, said ‘CRAV would be unlikely to target such a high-profile international event’ as Vinexpo.
Meanwhile another well-placed source in France said he had heard ‘rumours of potential disruption at Vinexpo.’
Bordeaux police told decanter.com they were not expecting large scale demonstrations – and were fully prepared for any spontaneous action.
‘Any demonstration would have to be declared, and any spontaneous demonstration would be very severely dealt with,’ a spokesman for the Bordeaux Prefecture said. She added that with senior ministers and other VIPs present at Vinexpo, ‘appropriate security measures’ would be in place.
A Vinexpo spokesperson told decanter.com they had total confidence in the Prefecture, which is responsible for providing police cover, and were also confident winegrowers would not disrupt such a key event.
‘We are aware of the rumoured threat of demonstrations at Vinexpo by certain groups of winegrowers. As a key international wine event, we have witnessed demonstrations in the past, as recently as 2003. These have never put our visitors and exhibitors to any inconvenience or risk.
‘We have the full support of the Prefecture de Bordeaux, which is responsible for providing police and gendarmerie cover. Moreover, we have confidence in the sense of responsibility of winegrowers, who know that Vinexpo is a crucial event for the whole wine industry, in France and abroad.’
Written by Adam Lechmere, and Oliver Styles