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French winemakers drain Spanish tankers

Angry French winemakers emptied five tanks filled with Spanish wine onto a motorway in protest against increasing imports into the country.

1650-deverser-des-vins-espagnol
Credit: La Revue du vin de France

The incident unfolded less that 10 miles from the Spanish border on April 4, when around 150 winegrowers from the southern departments of Aude and Pyrénées Orientales seized upon a number of tankers travelling into France, draining their loads onto the tarmac.

The group had positioned themselves at a toll barrier at Le Boulou, close to the Mediterranean town of Perpignan and less than ten miles from Spain, to monitor the number of wine trucks entering France from Spain, as reported by Vitisphere.com.

Five tankers were targeted with some 70,000 litres of wine spilled onto the motorway.

“In two hours, we stopped five trucks,” said Frédéric Rouanet, president of the winegrowers of Aude, speaking to Vitisphere. “This is a breakneck pace. This is a disaster. We want to verify the traceability and compliance of these wines.”

Tensions between French and Spanish producers, and also Italy, have been mounting with rising imports of their wines into France. This incident comes after figures confirmed that France was now the biggest buyer of Spanish wine, purchasing 580 million litres in 2014, a 40% rise on 2013. Globally, Spain became world’s biggest wine producer in 2014, outstripping both France and Italy, producing 51 million hectolitres of wine.

Initial estimates from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) indicated that Italy has now overtaken Spain, producing 48.9 million hectolitres, up 10% on 2014. Italy was followed by France, which produced 47.4 million hectolitres, a rise of just 1% compared with 2014. Following its bumper harvest in 2014, Spain’s production dropped to 36.7 million hectolitres, down 4% on last year.

Rouanet claims that 28,000 trucks filled with wine had arrived in France from Spain in 2015, with bulk shipping allowing the wine to be sold cheaper. Protesters also claim the provenance of wines entering France in tankers are not being verified and that the Spanish wine is has not been produced in accordance with European regulations. Graffiti was scrawled on the side of Spanish trucks which read “wine not compliant”.

“If a French vineyard produced wine using the Spanish regulations, he quite simply couldn’t sell it”, said Rouanet, reported in the Daily Mail. “‘I want Europe to work, but with the same laws for everyone.”

French police said there had been no immediate arrests but that the incidents were being investigated.

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