Protest by French winemakers sparks fury in Spain

War of the rosés! ‘Grapes of wrath’ protest by French winemakers sparks fury in Spain and calls for sanctions against France

  • French winemakers painted the town red, destroying countless boxes of vino
  • Winegrowers in France have called for demonstrations over decline in wine sales

An attack by furious French winemakers that saw rose and sparkling vino smashed in a row over cheap imports has sparked fury in Spain. 

The Spanish Confederation of Transport for Goods (CETM) called on French authorities for a ‘quick and effective response’.

‘We ask the authorities to ensure that these types of attacks do not occur and to carry out the necessary actions so that those responsible stop acting with total impunity,’ CETM demanded in a statement. 

‘They must answer to the law and pay for the act they are committing.’ 

This comes after police officers stood by and watched French winegrowers intercept trucks carrying cheap Spanish booze and smash crate-loads of it at the Le Bolou tollbooth, just ten miles from France’s border with Spain, yesterday.

In this ‘Grapes of Wrath’ protest, more than 200 winemakers destroyed several wine shipments, smashing the bottles and pouring the red booze all over the tarmac in a vintage demonstration of the French public’s penchant for demonstrating against perceived injustices.

Another protester flicked open the tap on one lorry, unleashing a torrent of red wine that soaked the road 

Winegrowers destroy bottles of wine on the motorway at the tollbooth of Le Boulou, close to the Spanish border

Protesters destroyed several wine shipments by smashing the bottles (pictured) and pouring the wine onto the road

A disgruntled winegrower destroys bottles of wine with a sledgehammer

Winegrowers unload wine from a lorry during a road-blocking demonstration to protest against imports of Spanish booze

The wine destruction caused outrage in Spain, with the CETM saying: ‘This is not the first time that road freight transport companies and self-employed workers have completely unjustifiably suffered from this type of assault, which endangers the safety of professional drivers and, in addition, entails significant losses for the sector.’

They also called on the European Union to enforce the right to free movement for goods, a demand that was echoed by the general secretary of the Farmers and Livestock Organisations (COAG) in Spain.

Miguel Padilla said ‘severe sanctions’ against the protesting farmers were needed, Spanish newspaper ElPlural reports. 

He added: ‘These types of actions are intolerable. The profitability crisis that French producers are suffering is also being suffered by Spanish farmers.

‘They seek to separate Spanish producers from the community market when the real culprits are the large distribution chains, mainly French.’

During yesterday’s protest, countless litres of white wine and bubbly were also wasted, with shocking images from the scene depicting crates upon crates of bottles littering the scene. 

Another group of demonstrators piled up crates of tomatoes and tyres to make an impromptu bonfire 

The protesters smashed several crates of Freixenet bottles

Some even sprizzed the Spanish sparkling wine, leaving the road soaked in booze and foam 

After opening the tab on a lorry, gallons of red wine spilled onto the road

One enraged grape-grower leapt onto a truck with a sledgehammer, violently swinging the tool at boxes of vino, while others flicked open the tap on one lorry, unleashing a torrent of red that soaked the road. 

Another group of demonstrators piled up crates of tomatoes and tyres to make an impromptu bonfire.

READ MORE: Grapes of wrath: Furious French wine makers destroy crate-loads of Spanish sparkling wine and pour gallons of red over the streets in protest over cheap imports of booze from neighbouring country

Frederic Rouanet, the president of a local syndicate of winemakers who organised the protest, said the demonstration comes as part of the ‘economic war against economic criminals who abuse ruined winegrowers’, before adding: ‘We are going to take away the possibility of being able to import foreign wines.’

In videos posted on X, protesters can be seen tumbling over a mountain of crates carrying Freixenet wine.

Many of the crates had been upended so their valued contents spilled out across the road. Bottles upon bottles of bubbly were seen rolling around amid a sea of broken glass and wasted booze. 

The protesters then took the splintered remains of the crates and added them to a pile of hundreds of cardboard boxes containing Spanish tomatoes, before lighting the whole lot on fire. 

Smoke billows from a make-shift bonfire on the tarmac

Protesters tumble over crates of Freixenet wine, which crash into puddles of white wine and foam as they hit the road 

Winegrowers in southern France are calling for more economic aid after difficult climate conditions affected the vintage

Some threw yet more boxes into the flames, while others somehow procured a batch of tyres, whose rubber whipped up a serious blaze that trailed thick plumes of black smoke into the sky.

A pair of firetrucks later descended on the scene to quell the inferno.

Before the protest escalated, a delegation of winegrowers of different local syndicates and trade unions met to discuss the cheap Spanish imports that threaten to put French winemakers out of business.

This fiery demonstration was launched just two months after French media reported in August that the government is set to pour away millions of litres of wine – and will even rip up vineyards.

The move comes as part of a bid to reverse tumbling prices amid falling sales. Production of wine has continued to rise in France, leading to a glut of unsold wine that has in turn caused prices to dip. 

Major wine-producing regions, particularly the famed Bordeaux area of France, are struggling.

The French government has announced a £170million plan to buy up huge quantities of the excess, which will be destroyed. 

The alcohol content will be recycled to make hand sanitiser, cleaning products or perfume.

Protesters also set a pile of tyres on fire, which billowed black smoke into the air and could be seen from several miles away

They also piled up hundreds of cardboard crates carrying Spanish tomatoes and lit them on fire

Protesters stopped several trucks importing wines from Spain at the Boulou tollbooth near the southern border between France and Spain this morning

Some threw more and more boxes into the flames, which quickly developed into grey smoke rising several feet high

Protesters emptied out the truck and threw the boxes of tomatoes onto the road

Protesters even grabbed individual packets of tomatoes and and smashed them on the floor

French agriculture minister Marc Fesneau said the fund was ‘aimed at stopping prices collapsing and so that wine-makers can find sources of revenue again’. 

But he stressed that the industry needed to ‘look to the future, think about consumer changes… and adapt’.

Figures from the European Commission say wine consumption for the current year is estimated to have fallen 15 per cent in France, 7 per cent in Italy, 10 per cent in Spain, and a staggering 34 per cent in Portugal.

READ MORE: France to pour away £170m of wine in desperate bid to stem tumbling prices as sales crash

However, production in the EU has risen by 4 per cent.

The commission said the worst affected areas were those producing reds and rosés from regions of France, Spain and Portugal.

Given this stunning market saturation, Spanish importers are trying to beat their French competition by offering cheaper prices, threatening the livelihoods of many French winemakers. 

But this is not the first time French winegrowers made a statement against cheap imports by destroying wine. 

French producers have been furious that their traditional rivals in Spain – and also Italy – are exporting hundreds of millions of litres of cut-price wine that threaten their livelihoods for years.

Dozens took to the roads at Le Boulou in 2016, stopping Spanish tankers and then emptying their wine on to the roads in a very similar protest. 

Mr Rouanet confirmed at the time that four tankers were emptied, with 70,000 litres of wine wasted. 

Fellow protesters scrawled graffiti on the side of the Spanish trucks, with slogans including ‘wine not compliant’.

They argued the Spanish wine was sub-standard and not produced in accordance with European regulations. 

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