Wine War: French Winemakers Drain Spanish Wine Tankers

Winemakers in southwestern France have long complained about unfair competition from other EU nations. On Monday, 150 winemakers from Aude and Pyrénées-Orientale took matters into their own hands, hijacking 5 tanker trucks carrying 90,000 bottles worth of Spanish wine. Here’s how the hijacking went down:

Cheers erupted as around 150 furious vintners from the Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales departments unscrewed the cap on two tankers at Le Boulou, close to the Mediterranean town of Perpignan and less than ten miles from Spain, and emptied their contents onto the motorway on Monday.

Three other Spanish vehicles were allowed to leave with their tanks half empty after having the words “vin non conforme” (non-compliant wine) daubed on their sides. Local police looked on at the “social action”, while French vintners took samples to check for fraudulent wine.

What’s “vin non conforme” all about? The French winemakers have accused the Spanish producers of passing off fraudulently labeled wine. The fact that France is now the largest importer of Spanish wine likely pushed the situation to the breaking point:

“If a French wine maker produced wine with Spanish rules, he simply wouldn’t be able to sell it,” said Frédéric Rouanet, the president of the Aude winemakers’ union. “Europe’s all very well, but the same rules apply for all.”

Denis Pigouche, President of Pyrénées-Orientales winemakers said: “These wines have no place in France. What’s more they’re not even necessarily European. I suspect they are from South America and then ‘Hispanicised’ in Barcelona and then Europeanised, or even Frenchified in France.”

Wine gushed out onto the highwayt

The winemakers appear to be digging in, promising that this is just the first of many attacks. Here’s Mr Rouanet again:

“We will continue until we’ve proved that the illegal traffic of wine is going on. We are going to protect our consumers. You can trace our wine from the vineyards to the bottle and those same rules should apply to all.”

Whether the winemakers are right or wrong about the provenance of the wine, 90,000 bottles spilling out into the streets is a sad sight.

Header image via La Revue du Vin de France