Angry protests against sale of cheap Spanish wine

Winemakers in Occitanie want supermarkets to buy local and say cheap Spanish costs make for unfair competition

Furious French winemakers have taken direct action against supermarkets selling cheap imported wine, branding them ‘disloyal’.

Angry vignerons from Gard, Occitanie, invaded the wine aisles at Metro in Quessargues and Géant Casino in Nîmes, where they collecting imported wine from Spain in trolleys before dumping them and smashing bottles outside in the car park.

The action is aimed at stemming the growing trend for ‘grandes surfaces’ (large supermarkets) to negotiate high-volume deals with Spanish winemakers instead of buying locally produced wine from Languedoc-Roussillon. French winemakers say competition is unfair because wine is much cheaper to produce in Spain, where land and labour costs are lower.

In one shop, Promocash, however, the winemakers welcomed the approach of the store manager who is making special efforts to highlight local production.

A recent France 2 TV report highlighted one winemaker, Mathieu Calégari, whose entire 2016 crop remains unsold. "We have almost 1,000 hectolitres, it is beautiful this wine, but I cannot sell it, there is no explanation," he said.

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Just a few hundred kilometres away, near Valencia, is the largest vineyard in the world. Here, wine production costs are said to be just 30 centimes per litre, half that of French costs.

In the last 30 years, more than 150 wine cooperatives have closed in Languedoc-Roussillon, while the cost of frosts in late-April is still being counted.

In the run-up to the recent election, winemakers marched en masse in Narbonne to bring their plight to the attention of politicians. Many communes held by the Parti Socialiste in these wine-making territories (previously known as the "Red Midi"), swung to the Front National.

In Aude, the local wine syndicate will meet this Thursday, where leaders are expected to call upon France’s new political regime to help wine workers, just as legislative election campaigning gets under way.

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