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CRAV Vandals at Vinadeis in Languedoc- Roussillon in France

Posted: Friday, 22 July 2016 15:26


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CRAV Vandals at Vinadeis in Languedoc- Roussillon in France

July 22: In India we may think of Languedoc-Roussillon region of France as a big wine lake due to high volumes of low cost wines but it is also being constantly overfilled with cheap Spanish wine that has infuriated the militant activists of the local winemakers and their organisation, Comité Régionale d’Action Viticole (CRAV) some members of which vandalised the winery of a co-operative producer and wine merchant Vinadeis, in Maureilhan near Béziers, creating tension

About 30 Balaclava-clad protesters belonging to Comité Régionale d’Action Viticole (CRAV), wielding crowbars and makeshift axes stormed the offices of Sudvin, a subsidiary of co-operative producer and wine merchant Vinadeis in the evening of July 19, with tensions mounting in Languedoc-Roussillon. Some activists broke windows, cabinets, furniture and computer equipment, others set fire to tires in several offices. The tanks were also targeted but luckily they were empty.

The vandals claimed allegiance to Languedoc-Roussillon’s CRAV, a shadowy group of winemakers that has existed for more than 100 years in some form and intermittently used violence to pursue its goals.

The attackers reportedly said that local winemakers were sitting on full vats of wine weeks ahead of the harvest, while big companies in Languedoc ‘imported cheap wine’. The letters ‘CRAV’ were also scribbled on the vats and walls.

The company was not an obvious target. Historically, it has been a strong supporter of Languedoc wines with roots in the co-operative movement. It employs hundreds of winemakers and spans 17,000 hectares of vines. Vinadeis, previously named as Val d’Orbieu-Uccoar, is one of the largest wine companies in the Languedoc-Roussillon, acting as a producer and a wine merchant. It claims that Spanish wines are not a core business and account for only 10% of its total business.

Import of cheap bulk wine from Spain at prices as low as €0.35/L, is not uncommon. Recently, French customs officials charged a grower in the Aude region of Languedoc-Roussillon with selling Spanish wine labelled as table wine-‘vin de table’ from France. According to a report in the local daily, a French grower based near Narbonne sold 30,000 hectolitres of falsely labelled wine to a large wine merchant in the region. That’s equivalent to around four million bottles. Local wine unions have used the case as evidence against the amount of Spanish wine crossing the border.

There have been several protests against big trucks carrying Spanish wine entering into France. A group of CRAV militant winemakers hijacked a Spanish tanker carrying wine and forcefully spilt out the wine all over the highway, in April this year.

France is the world’s  largest wine producing nation, but cheap Spanish wine is commonly imported because of strong demand from the French supermarkets due to low prices.

There is nothing illegal about cheap wines being imported from Spain as a member of the European Union, so long as the wines are labelled as Spanish when retailed or at least wines of the European Union. But the strategy has annoyed some producers in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Coincidentally, exactly 100 years later, CRAV had issued a one-month ultimatum in 2007 to the then new President Nicolas Sarkozy threatening ‘action’, and possibly deaths, if he did not help the struggling southern French wine industry. A year earlier, Domaine de la Baume, owned by France’s then-largest wine producer, Les Grands Chais, (whose wines are imported by Hema Connoisseurs in India) was targeted with explosives.

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