French winemakers armed with a thirst for justice painted the town red today when they intercepted trucks carrying cheap Spanish booze and smashed crate-loads of their competitor’s product all over the road.
Le Bolou tollbooth, located just 10 miles from France’s border with Spain, was turned into a battleground this morning when dozens of protesting winemakers halted lorries and tore into their contents.
They destroyed several wine shipments, smashing the bottles and pouring the blood-red booze all over the tarmac in a vintage demonstration of the French public’s penchant for demonstrating against perceived injustices.
Countless litres of white wine and bubbly were also wasted, with shocking images from the scene depicting crates upon crates of bottles littering 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 vino that soaked the road.
Another group of particularly resourceful demonstrators piled up several crates of tomatoes and tyres to make an impromptu bonfire.
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.’
It remains to be seen whether Rouanet’s wine-soaked manifesto will be realised, but for now the repercussions for the protest seem minimal, as the disgruntled grape-growers were mostly left alone by police, according to French newspaper Vitisphere.
Winegrowers unload wine from a lorry during a road blocking demonstration to protest against imports of Spanish wine, on the motorway at the toll booth of Le Boulou, close to the Spanish border, southern France, on October 19, 2023
Winegrowers destroy bottles of wine from a lorry during a road blocking demonstration to protest against imports of Spanish wine
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
The protest, which saw the street painted red due to the spilled wine (pictured above) is part of the ‘economic war against economic criminals who abuse ruined winegrowers’, according to Frederic Rouanet, the president of a local syndicate of winemakers
Winegrowers unload tomatoes from a lorry during a road blocking demonstration to protest against imports of Spanish wine, on the motorway at the toll booth of Le Boulou, close to the Spanish border, southern France, on October 19, 2023
The protesters smashed several crates of Freixenet bottles
Some even sprizzed the Spanish sparkling wine as the floor was soaked in wine and foam
After opening the tab on a lorry, gallons of red wine spilled onto the road
The furious winemakers also piled up several crates of tomatoes and tyres to set them on fire (pictured here)
In videos posted on social media platform X, protesters (pictured) can be seen tumbling over crates of Freixenet wine, who crash into puddles of white wine and foam as soon as they hit the road
In videos posted on social media platform 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.
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.
Winegrowers in southern France have called for demonstrations to demand economic efforts to help the regional wine industry, which has gone through a trying vintage amid difficult climatic conditions
Protesters also set a pile of tyres on fire, which billowed black smoke into the air (pictured) 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 Bolou 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
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 £170 million 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.
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, seven per cent in Italy, ten per cent in Spain, and a staggering 34 per cent in Portugal.
However, production in the EU has risen by four per cent.
The Commission said the worst affected areas were those producing reds and rosés from regions of France, Spain and Portugal.
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
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 Bolou in 2016, stopping Spanish tankers and then emptying their wine on to the roads in a very similar protest.
Rouanet confirmed at the time that four tankers were emptied, with 70,000 litres of wine wasted.
His 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.