Tensions lower slightly in Spain-France ‘wine war’

High tensions among French winemakers last year are said to be lowering this year (Photo: France 2)

Progress has been made in the ‘wine war’ between France and Spain as agriculture ministers from the two countries have met for talks in a bid to defuse tensions.

The ministers met on July 25 in Paris to discuss the ongoing grievances brought by French wine producers, which flared up last year after it emerged many French supermarkets were choosing to sell cheap Spanish wine instead of supporting local French varieties, thanks to Spain’s lower prices of labour and land.

The meeting comes after the creation of a mixed French-Spanish committee on the issue, with producers from both sides apparently trying to work together since May this year.

In contrast to the tensions seen in 2016, the situation is expected to be less inflammatory this year as prices in Spain have risen due to weather issues such as drought and hailstorms - although some areas of France have been affected by poor harvesting conditions too.

Since last year, there have been efforts from producers in Aude, Gard, Hérault and the Pyrénées-Atlantiques - areas that are often said to struggle to command decent prices for their produce - to denounce last year’s ‘low cost’ offers, which allegedly saw wines without any geographical or vineyard information on the label negotiated on a large scale by sellers for just 35 centimes per litre.

Some campaigners even reported that wine was allegedly being sold as from the ‘Pays d’Oc’ or under French-sounding names such as ‘Vieux Papes’, despite coming from Spain.

In 2016, shops were attacked, supermarkets visited by angry producers, and Spanish trucks apprehended by the campaign calling itself the Comité d’action viticole (CAV - ‘Viticultural Action Committee’).

“We have nothing against exportation, but we found ourselves in a situation where supermarket aisles had Spanish wine bottled in France, sold under French brands,” explained Samuel Masse, president of the Jeunes agriculteurs (JA - ‘Young Farmers’) of Hérault, speaking to French newspaper Le Monde.

“In 2016, we had an influx of low-cost Spanish wine, but that’s less true today,” he added.

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