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French winemakers’ war with Spanish intensifies

The Spanish foreign ministry has branded the actions of a group of French winemakers who destroyed thousands of litres of Spanish wine a “flagrant violation” of EU principles.

Credit: La Revue du vin de France

Earlier this week around 150 French winegrowers targeted five tanks carrying Spanish wine into France from Spain, draining some 70,000 litres of wine onto the motorway.

The group of winegrowers, from the southern departments of Aude and Pyrénées Orientale, were acting in protest against increased imports of cut-price wine into France from Spain and Italy. They claim such wine is not being properly traced and is therefore in violation of EU regulations.

Today, the Spanish Foreign Ministry has summoned France’s ambassador to address the incident, which has not resulted in any arrests, describing the attack as a “flagrant violation of various basic principles” of the EU.

The Spanish government said it had reported the incident to the European Commission in a statement released in response to the attacks.

“These incidents, which are occurring all too frequently, are grounds for concern for the Government of Spain, since they represent a flagrant violation of various basic principles of the European Union, such as the free movement of goods among Member States and other principles relating to property and the security of goods and people”, it said.

“For that reason, the government has reported these incidents to the European Commission. Spain has already officially passed on its protest to the French authorities, and urges them to adopt all appropriate measures to guarantee, with absolute security, the free movement of people and goods, one of the basic principles of the European Union.”

Frederic Rouanet, president of the winemakers’ union of the French region of Aude, has vowed to continue the protests.

Globally, Spain became world’s biggest wine producer in 2014, outstripping both France and Italy, producing 51 million hectolitres of wine.

However initial estimates from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) indicate 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 in 2015, down 4% on last year.

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