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Spain to France: Don’t Dump 90,000 Bottles of Our Wine into Your Streets

French winemakers attacked Spanish trucks, dumping out tens of thousands of gallons of wine.

Wine flows from the tap of a Spanish truck's tanker on April 4, 2016 in Le Boulon, ten kilometers from the French-Spanish border, during a demonstration of French winemakers against southern countries' wine imports.  
The demonstrators, claiming that the cheap wine from Spain and Italy represent an unfair competition for French wines, stopped the Spanish trucks carrying wine, and partially or totally emptied their tankers. / AFP / RAYMOND ROIG        (Photo credit should read RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images)
Wine flows from the tap of a Spanish truck's tanker on April 4, 2016 in Le Boulon, ten kilometers from the French-Spanish border, during a demonstration of French winemakers against southern countries' wine imports. The demonstrators, claiming that the cheap wine from Spain and Italy represent an unfair competition for French wines, stopped the Spanish trucks carrying wine, and partially or totally emptied their tankers. / AFP / RAYMOND ROIG (Photo credit should read RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

French critics of Spanish wine claim bottles are then sold at low prices in France, taking away business from local winesellers who are creating a more authentic product. “If a French winemaker produced wine with Spanish rules, he simply wouldn’t be able to sell it,”  Frédéric Rouanet, president of the Aude winemakers’ union, told reporters. “Europe’s all very well, but with the same rules for all.”

Photo credit: RAYMOND ROIG/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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