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French Wine Protests


Rebel Rose
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Bordeaux boycott looms as growers protest over prices

The small wine producers accuse the traders of deliberately failing to negotiate a reasonable price for lower-quality claret on an increasingly glutted world wine market. They suspect the trading houses plan to make a large speculative profit on the wine.

The traders accuse the growers of flooding the market with unreasonable amounts of wine and failing to accept the basic laws of market economics. The dispute is part of a deepening crisis in the French wine industry, affecting all but the highest-quality "appellation" wines. Days ago, wine-growers in the Languedoc smashed vats of wine in Sète and sacked the local offices of the inland revenue and the national wine marketing organisation, Onivins.

But blocking the appellation label for a large part of the 2005 harvest will provoke a crisis between growers and traders, who handle 75 per cent of Bordeaux wines. Then the wines could be sold only as near-unmarketable "table wines".

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Mary Baker

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For those of you following the protests in Bordeaux, in recent news, the Bordelais have boarded up, so to speak, the CIVB Headquarters with bricks and mortar!

Militant winemakers have bricked up the entrances of the Bordeaux headquarters of the CIVB.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning (8 December) members of the FNSEA union (Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Exploitants Agricoles) and its regional arm the FDSEA arrived at the Bordeaux trade body's HQ near the Place de Quinconces and - using breezeblocks and mortar - built a wall across the main doors, blocking them entirely.

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Mary Baker

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  • 3 months later...

Situation 'uncontrollable'

Disenchanted winemakers attacked police vehicles, wine tankers and négociants yesterday in a further attempt to elicit financial help from the government.

Over 100 winemakers, masked and armed with crowbars and sledgehammers, began the day by descending on a wine depot in the Mediterranean port of Sète.

The group attacked an Italian wine tanker and emptied its contents, several thousand litres of Italian wine, onto the tarmac.

The winemakers formed a rolling roadblock on the A9 motorway between Montpellier and Béziers and attacked police vehicles, including a motorcycle, with sledgehammers. One police van was set alight. No police officers were hurt.

'It's not vandalism, it's defence,' said one winemaker.

Thomas Jefferson said, "Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country, and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds."

Are the French wine producers being strangled by their AOC system and vulnerable pricing models? Would their rebellious tendencies be better focused on defying the AOC system like many Italians have done?

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Mary Baker

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"Vigorous"

(see subsidies below) also the folks who made wine that suffered from dirty cellars and barrels for years.

"Most independent..."

Ya mean the folks who love those government subsidies?

"Virtuous"

The people with a history of blending in cheap African wine to "round out" their Pommards etc...?

The fact is too much mediocre land is planted with mediocre vines and mediocre wine is the result--I am being generous-- a lot of that wine is crap and would have a hard time competing with any decent everyday wine from all over the globe.

I think the EU is attempting to fix a bad situation. The AOC system is a real problem in marketing even very good quality wines. (maybe they should allow large breasted women on their wine labels!--just kidding).

The system is a perfect example of a well intentioned government regulating something rather than the marketplace.

The article is really on to something when they note the criminal behavior is due in part to a call for speeding up government assistance.

Just "going around" the AOC system is only a small solution.

The truth is the Italians are making better quality wines and are marketing them with more savvy.

The Europeans are faced with declining consumption based in no small part to the drinking laws (I really do not want to hear any more lectures about America and our puritanism) in the face of way too much production. The best wines from every region are not in much trouble and are indeed thriving. This dust up is over basic table wines --many produced by large co-ops--that are heavily subsidized. Much of this was consumed locally and is of the quality that can not compete on the export market.

I hope the EU can get their arms around this.

The wine world is evolving rapidly--both producers and consumers.

All I know is-- this evolution is to the benefit of all. There are more wines on local shelves from more places in the world at all price levels than ever before!

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The EU will destroy everything of quality and personality in European wine and food if given free reign. Do you really want bureaucrats to control how your food and wine is grown and made. It will certainly be cleaner, but will also certainly be more boring.

Democracy is a messy thing. So is making food and wine with flavor.

...my other comments are here

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I think you have very little understanding of European wine and food culture.

(see subsidies below) also the folks who made wine that suffered from dirty cellars and barrels for years.

You must mean those dirty winemakers that over the centuries made European wines the quality standard for fine wine - a standard that still stands by the way. Try to find a great New World producer that does not use as their standard the European classics.

"Most independent..."

Ya mean the folks who love those government subsidies?

What, there are no agricultural subsidies in the good old USA?

"Virtuous"

The people with a history of blending in cheap African wine to "round out" their Pommards etc...?

You mean blending like the classic, Lafite "Hermitaged"? If you think top producers in Burgundy are blending African wines into their blends you are totally misinformed. To make such charges without any proof is clearly irresponsible and actually quite ignorant of the situation in Burgundy today.

The fact is too much mediocre land is planted with mediocre vines and mediocre wine is the result--I am being generous-- a lot of that wine is crap and would have a hard time competing with any decent everyday wine from all over the globe.

This is a statement you can make about any wine region in the world. Look at all those crappy vines on the floor of the Napa Valley (Opus for example). Where are most of California wines produced? The Central Valley or Napa? Mediocre land planted with mediocre vines is the standard, not the exception of the wine world.

I think the EU is attempting to fix a bad situation. The AOC system is a real problem in marketing even very good quality wines. (maybe they should allow large breasted women on their wine labels!--just kidding).

The system is a perfect example of a well intentioned government regulating something rather than the marketplace.

The AOC is a bad marketing system because it is not a marketing system. It is simply a way for growers to enforce a standard for their brand name.

Before you damn Europe's wine farmers, a more thoughtful approach and an understanding of history should be a minimum requirement. Most of Europe's wine farmers are small producers who are there because their countries history and culture put them there. They work hard for little money and are not out to cheat anyone. We should remember these are real people trying to make an honest living doing what their local history led them to - they deserve respect.

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I'll second the fact that AOC is meant to protect original products from being ripped off by fakes. Marketing is fine for any wine, but please don't call it something it isn't and call that 'marketing'.

I agree also with Huillet in the article when he states that the supermarkets are strangling the wineries. Take a look at the situation which is quite straightforward and it is a classic case of killing of the goose that lays the golden egg. They have no interest beyond that quarter's earnings.

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I agree also with Huillet in the article when he states that the supermarkets are strangling the wineries.  Take a look at the situation which is quite straightforward and it is a classic case of killing of the goose that lays the golden egg.  They have no interest beyond that quarter's earnings.

Supermarkets are killing plenty of producers, and not just in wine. But yet, we all still shop there. How many of us outside this perhaps biased group of dedicated foodies and wine drinkers can honestly can say we patronise local shops and are willing to pay above supermarket prices (those of us that still have a choice, that is...)? At the end of the day, most people prefer a bargain and don't want to pay above the odds or think about the consequences of "cheap" food.

Edited by Sackville (log)
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I think you have very little understanding of European wine and food culture.

(see subsidies below) also the folks who made wine that suffered from dirty cellars and barrels for years.

You must mean those dirty winemakers that over the centuries made European wines the quality standard for fine wine - a standard that still stands by the way. Try to find a great New World producer that does not use as their standard the European classics.

"Most independent..."

Ya mean the folks who love those government subsidies?

What, there are no agricultural subsidies in the good old USA?

"Virtuous"

The people with a history of blending in cheap African wine to "round out" their Pommards etc...?

You mean blending like the classic, Lafite "Hermitaged"? If you think top producers in Burgundy are blending African wines into their blends you are totally misinformed. To make such charges without any proof is clearly irresponsible and actually quite ignorant of the situation in Burgundy today.

The fact is too much mediocre land is planted with mediocre vines and mediocre wine is the result--I am being generous-- a lot of that wine is crap and would have a hard time competing with any decent everyday wine from all over the globe.

This is a statement you can make about any wine region in the world. Look at all those crappy vines on the floor of the Napa Valley (Opus for example). Where are most of California wines produced? The Central Valley or Napa? Mediocre land planted with mediocre vines is the standard, not the exception of the wine world.

I think the EU is attempting to fix a bad situation. The AOC system is a real problem in marketing even very good quality wines. (maybe they should allow large breasted women on their wine labels!--just kidding).

The system is a perfect example of a well intentioned government regulating something rather than the marketplace.

The AOC is a bad marketing system because it is not a marketing system. It is simply a way for growers to enforce a standard for their brand name.

Before you damn Europe's wine farmers, a more thoughtful approach and an understanding of history should be a minimum requirement. Most of Europe's wine farmers are small producers who are there because their countries history and culture put them there. They work hard for little money and are not out to cheat anyone. We should remember these are real people trying to make an honest living doing what their local history led them to - they deserve respect.

Craig

I am not damning anybody.

In fact this issue is not about "all farmers" it is in fact about a relative few. I was responding to the farmers who are referenced in the RR post. You seem to have extrapolated this group into all farmers. So we are talking about one group of farmers who make a certain kind of wine.

First--the wine glut is a result of too much wine too few consumers.

The wines that the EU is ordering being "dumped" that is turned into industrial alcohol etc are for the most part made by large co-ops these are simple everyday table wines.

If these wines were of the quality that could be sold on the export market then one would assume the EU would be exporting them. Read the excerpt from RR--we are not talking the "highest quality apellation wines."

As for poor quality wines being made in other countries--well we are talking about the French situation--I believe that is where the rioting is taking place and what this thread is about.

I will gladly acknowledge that every wine making country makes poor wine if that helps you.

Your cheap shot at Opus aside--really! However, it is Europe we are talking about here and Europe where there is an acute problem.

As for my noting that wines have been "adulterated" (the Pommard reference) this is an historical fact.

I used this to tweak the hypocrisy of the rioting folks etc.--it was a bit tongue in cheek.

just as RR used her salt of the earth references.

However you should read up on your history--the number of wine scandals in Europe are too numerous to list here. we had a major one re" Austrian wines (see the anti freeze scandal of 1985). the French are still embarrassed about a freighter found loaded with Italian juice "discovered" docked at one of their ports recently.

And yes--cheap Algerian wine was often blended into Burgundy. Let me quote Jancis Robinson in the Oxford Companion:"adulteration and fraud have dogged the wine trade throughout history...the long human chain stretching from grower to consumer affords many opportunities for illegal practices."

If you think that there is no hanky panky in Burgundy(or anywhere) today then I will leave you in your blissful state.

Again--sorry you didn't get it--my point is that when anyone attempts to depict themselves and their industry as pure and righteous is due for a bit of tweaking!

I know what the AOC is and what its intent and purpose is--what I am saying is the system has not been friendly to consumers --you know the folks who buy stuff--the marketing thing.

To ignore the inhibitions that the AOC system places on the marketing process is to be..well..ignorant. Also the confusion it promotes among potential buyers.

As for subsidies--the piece referenced, I believe, was priceless when the writer noted that after all the "noble" reasons for the unrest what was a key factor was more timely delivery of subsidies.

It is a fact that many of these large co-ops have been producing a lot of mediocre wine that can not be sold-the EU themselves admit that these subsidies are a huge problem and are trying to eliminate them.

I also am aware of subsidies for all sorts of products all over the world but again we are talking about France and Europe here.

I would be happy to talk of all the virtues of the European farmers and winemakers but that is not the topic at hand.

The fact is--Europe has a severe problem --they themselves admit this--the problem is pretty clearly identified--just look at the wines they are ordering be turned into industrial alcohol. look at where the grapes are that the EU is paying farmers to rip up.

Let's not descend into some half baked treacle about the noble farmer or the poor little virtuous wine maker-- back to Mondovino land if you will.

I am quick to recognize fine wines and cite the growers and makers. I know all about "European" wine and food tradition"---that isn't what this is about.

Blaming the current woes on supermarkets is a red herring--in fact--the French drunk driving laws are probably more to blame than Oddbins pricing structure.

In fact, it is clear to me that some people just do not know what wines/grapes those French farmers are rioting over. They are really hard to defend.

so--I could have been more clear here you would not have felt the need to present a knee jerk (understandable) response in defense of something I was never attacking.

anyway

cheer

by the way I recommend Jancis Robinson and especially Andrew Barr (Wine Snobbery) two Europeans who will get you up to snuff on those naughty winemakers!

:wink:

Edited by JohnL (log)
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Are you folks reading the article or even the excerpt from RR?

Note the use of terms like "lower quality claret"

and "wine glutted" market.

It is specifically noted that the crisis affects "all but the highest quality apellation wines."

The glut is a fact of life--more wine is being made than is being consumed. something has to give.

That something is--lower quality wines.

These are basic table wines that are mostly consumed in the country of origin. They don't sell well on the export market because they don't compete--they are just not anything special even for everyday drinking. believe me if these wines were wanted--by anyone--then those folks would pay for them they would sell and no one would be rioting.

The fact is, they can't sell for a decent price at home or anywhere and so the French government (the people really ) have been supporting these wines financially.

These are not national treasures of French winemaking--so if no one wants them why are they made?

No the farmers want their subsidies to continue so they blame the big bad supermarkets, Michele Rolland or Robert Parker or the Mondavi's or globalization or the EU or the ...well you get the picture--anybody but themselves you know those--poor--noble--people of the earth who grow these grapes for the pure love of it who ask only for a meager existence in return--please!

I would posit that the French drunk driving laws are impacting these wine sales more than supermarket prices. I have actually discussed this some folks in the french wine trade. it is the French themselves who are drinking less of their own wine!

So worry not--in fact--go to a local wine shop and really look--I have said this many times but-right now--glut or no glut--riots or no riots--you will see more different wines from more countries and varietals than ever before--at all price levels!

Why even France--who would have thought an entire wine shop could be devoted to mostly Loire whites and reds even ten years ago!

so

what's the real problem?

Edited by JohnL (log)
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