French wine makers plan new protest

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Wine makers Table wine France French wine

French wine makers are planning a new protest in Narbonne, the
centre of violent scenes earlier this year, in answer to the
continuing low prices on the market and poor government support.

Philippe Vergnes, president of the local wine co-operatives' union, said he and others were organising the protest for early December, probably sometime between the 6 and 10.

He said the rally would be held to protest against continuing low prices on the market, and apparent government indifference towards vintners expected to pay high social and administration charges, despite suffering serious losses this year.

"This year we have had a smaller harvest of a very good quality but the market has not responded to this at all,"​ said Vergnes.

Dominique Granier, president of the chamber of agriculture in the nearby Gard region, told the MidiLibre​ newspaper on Tuesday he feared a revolt if a general crisis in southern France's agriculture continued.

Around 8,000 vintners took to the streets of Narbonne on 20 April this year to protest at the crisis in France's wine industry. After a passionate yet peaceful rally, the day ended with tear gas and Molotov cocktails as between 50 and 100 vintners clashed with riot police.

The situation had calmed a little over the summer months, but prices remain under pressure. They have more than halved for wine from some smaller vineyards surrounding villages.

Crashing prices for higher quality Appellation Contrôlée (AOC) wines have also squeezed Vins de Pays and table wine producers by lowering the price difference. The wine co-operatives' union warned that discounters had brought some AOC bottles down to €1 each.

Some wine makers in the Gard region, a little way northeast of Narbonne, have threatened to stop paying land tax and social charges. They claim the move has been forced upon them because of bad profit losses this year.

"There is a lot of wine around and people are tending to offer lower and lower prices because they don't know what to do with it,"​ said Charles Blagden, a wine merchant based in southern France.

He said one reason why France's wine crisis had been so acute this year was because so many other countries were over-producing too.

This year's harvest has been lower in Europe's main three wine countries - France, Spain and Italy - with yields falling nine per cent, 17-19 per cent and 6.5 per cent respectively.

Even so, life has remained tough for smaller vintners and many in southern France fear they will soon be looking for new jobs. Some in the industry believe up to half of Languedoc's wine makers may be forced out of business in the next few years.

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