(EurActiv) — Winemakers in the Montpellier region in southern France have launched a media campaign to alert consumers of “unfair competition” from their Spanish counterparts, passing off their wine as French.
In its campaign, the Occitan winemakers’ union said that buyers are being “deceived by presentation and labelling that could be confusing”.
The union alleges that supermarkets are selling wine “of European origin and more particularly from Spain”, which they buy cheaply and market using a number of tactics to make them appear French.
A spokesman for the Occitan wine producers told EFE that French anti-fraud investigators were looking into the sale of Spanish wine made to appear as if it originated from the Pays d’Oc in the South of France.
The spokesman stressed that this radio and press campaign was “not directed at Spanish wine but at fraudulent behaviour by which consumers are tricked into believing they are drinking wine from the Pays d’Oc, when they are really drinking Spanish wine”.
The organisation, which represents some 20,000 southern French wine producers, warned consumers to show “vigilance” and “solidarity” to put an end to these “unfair practices”. It added that shoppers should tell them about any “anomalies” they may notice.
It also criticised the French government’s “inaction, despite the widespread nature of the fraud, which was uncovered months ago”.
The campaign was launched to coincide with a meeting of French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll with wine industry representatives.
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The meeting was called in an increasingly tense context, following a series of protests in recent months against Spanish wine imports.
Last week, the wine sections of several supermarkets in Nîmes and Narbonne were raided by vandals who smashed bottles of Spanish wine.
Two explosions were also reported at the site of wine merchants Jeanjean near Montpellier.
In January, protesters stopped two lorries carrying Spanish wine in the southern departments of the Garde and the Aude and emptied their contents onto the road.
These actions were claimed by a group called the wine-growers action committee (CAV), which has committed similar acts of violence in the past.
But the union stressed that it did not condone any such action.
Spain’s foreign ministry expressed its “concern” after the incident, as these acts represented not only “a breakdown of the rule of law but also, and crucially, because they amount to a flagrant violation of the single market, a fundamental pillar of the European Union”.
Several thousands of people took to the streets in Narbonne on 25 March to protest against unfair competition from Spanish winemakers.