Wine, protest and Macron: why southern French wine producers are so angry
The vinuous terrorists of Languedoc-Roussillon are combating changing French drinking habits and a new chairwoman as they seek to preserve the regions traditions
There is no love for legislators among the winemakers of the Languedoc-Roussillon. But in the vast stretch of vineyard that embraces the south of France from the Rhne in the east down to the Spanish border, complain and disagreement are as much a part of life as ptanque and vin rouge.
Its a sentiment with a long tradition. Just over a century ago, in the spring and early summertime of 1907, the Midis wine industry was at the centre of one of the most violent eruptions of civil unrest in the countrys modern history, as angry crowd in the hundreds of thousands brought the region to a standstill, battling with the army and railing against what the hell is read as neglect from Paris after sales of local wine had collapsed in the face of rival from Algeria and adulterated wines from elsewhere in France.
The five people who died during the rioting and street fighting of 1907 are part of the myth of the most controversial contemporary incarnation of the Midi vigneron rebel spirit, the militant group Comit Rgional dAction Viticole. This secretive alliance of disenfranchised wine producers has been active since the 1960 s, carrying on business as sporadic attempts on political offices, supermarkets and wine producers ever since.
In the past year, nonetheless, the two attacks have become more frequent, with the group claiming persons responsible for among other acts of complain, arson and sabotage ransack and burning the offices of local bulk wine supplier Sudvin; emptying vats at another distributor, Biron, in the Languedoc fishing port of Ste; and dumping 25,000 litres of Spanish wine in a supermarket car park. According to French wine trade website Vitisphere, last month the group was planning an even larger attempt, this time on several bulk wine distributors in Bordeaux, before being intercepted on the motorway between Toulouse and Bordeaux by police.
The wider wine trade , not least in Britain, has a tendency to reject these balaclava-clad rebels as posturing, dangerous dinosaurs, with a define of impossible-to-meet demands. But their actions are rooted in a form of desperation with which its hard not to feel some empathy and which is widely shared in a region where a protest march depicted thousands of winemakers to the streets of Narbonne earlier this year.