Southern France: home to the stunning French Riviera, acres of sprawling lavender fields, and dozens of angry farmers willing to hijack Spanish tankers and dump out tens of thousands of gallons of wine in order to avoid what they claim is “unfair competition” in the French wine industry.
On Monday, some 150 French vintners attacked five Spanish tankers carrying shipments of wine from Spain to sell in France, unscrewing the trucks’ caps and pouring the equivalent of 90,000 bottles of red and white wine into French streets near the border.
On Wednesday, Spain summoned the French ambassador over the matter.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry claimed in a statement Wednesday that Monday’s rampage, which took place around 10 miles from the Spanish border, was a violation of European Union rules that allow goods from member states to travel freely throughout the government bloc.
French winemakers disagree. Denis Pigouche, president of a Pyrenees-Orientales winemaker association, told reporters that the Spanish “have no place in France.”
“What’s more they’re not even necessarily European,” he said. “I suspect they are from South America and then ‘Hispanicized’ in Barcelona and then Europeanized, or even Frenchified in France.”
This is not the first time French winemakers took matters into their own hands in order to avoid competition with neighboring producers. In 2005, a militant winemaker group known as “the CRAV,” a French acronym for the Regional Wine-grower Action Committee protested wine imports by burning a car, hijacking trucks, and even throwing sticks of dynamite into French agriculture ministry offices.
The latest incident incident was sparked by a recent report that France is now the number one importer of Spanish wines — the same wines that French winemakers claim are of poor quality.
Three other trucks were also stopped on Monday, but were let go half-full after the mob painted “vin non conforme,” or “non-compliant wine,” on their sides. The same men who attacked the trucks took samples of the wine to test it and prove their accusations that Spanish winemakers are mixing their wine with products from Latin America without advertising that to customers.