French winemakers angry over Tour de France sponsor
French winemakers have threatened to disrupt the Tour de France over the cycling event’s decision to award a Chilean wine brand an exclusive sponsorship deal.
Producers in the Languedoc have expressed anger at the choice of Cono Sur’s ‘Bicicleta’ brand being a sponsor of the “emblematic” French cycling event, and have warned they will interrupt the race when it passes through the region.
Stage 11 of this year’s tour will pass between Carcassonne and Montpellier, a large part of which passes right through the heart of the Aude department.
The Chilean label, owned by Concha y Toro, in fact began its partnership with the race in 2014 when it sponsored the ‘Grand Départ’ part of the race held in Yorkshire and then renewed its partnership through to 2017 last year.
However, the Aude’s winemaking union, the Syndicat des Vignerons de l’Aude, claimed it had only just learned of the deal.
The union’s president, Frédéric Rouanet, told The Telegraph: “We feel humiliated. We make prestigious wines and the Tour is part of our cultural and sporting heritage, and therefore our wines should be associated with it.”
He hinted that if the race goes ahead without a change to the wine sponsor then the union will attempt to “block” the race as it passes through the Aude this July and he called on other unions to do likewise.
Due to France’s Evin Law any wine sponsor, whether French or foreign, is not allowed to openly market its products in association with an event such as the Tour.
As such, Cono Sur’s partnership has solely been with the Tour on its foreign stages: the UK in 2014, the Low Countries in 2015 and Spain and Switzerland this year. At no point will Cono Sur be advertised in relation to the Tour when in France.
Presumably aware of this, other syndicats and interprofessions have been less vocal in any disapproval they may habour but the Languedoc is home to some of France’s most militant winemakers – most famously the quasi-terrorist group ‘Comité Regional d’Action Viticole‘ or CRAV.
Active since the 1970s, the group occasionally makes the news with sporadic attacks such as the 2013 bombing of the Socialist party’s headquarters in Carcassonne.