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«The London School of Economics and Political Science Wine In Their Veins: France and the European Community’s Common Wine Policy, 1967-1980 Maria ...»

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intérêts spéculatifs de ceux qui veulent nous réduire à ne rester qu'un réservoir de matière première, c'est-à-dire à demeurer écrasé, non pas par la mauvaise qualité qu'il produit, mais par les mauvais vins qui sont produits un peu partout, et encore plus en dehors de notre région que vous connaissez mal et que vous conduisez inexorablement au désespoir et à la ruine. A plusieurs reprises, nous vous avons alertés. Sans réponse de votre part. Puissiezvous comprendre et doter notre pays d'un office des vins capable de jouer son véritable rôle et de sauver ceux qui travaillent dans les vignes et qui ne vivent que de ce travail.

He insisted that a true national wine office, given real powers, could change the situation by defending a policy of quality and reining in imports.

There were a few voices in support of what was perceived as Bonnet’s stance against the poor Midi table wines, but they were far fewer, mostly from outside the Midi, and from private citizens. For instance, a health inspector from Britanny wrote to tell Bonnet that he fully supported him as he thought ‘ces industriels de la “bibine” [sont des] producteurs sans scruples de ce “gros rouge” qui est le vrai poison utilisé si largement par les toxicomanes de notre région’.73 A letter to the editor in France-Soir, describing ‘bibine’ as French wine that is not even wanted by foreigners, announced ‘Noël aura été marque cette année par un événement important: un homme politique, et qui plus est, un ministre, a osé tenir un langage antidémagogique, conforme aux intérêts de la nation….Oui, Monsieur le ministre, vous avez raison’.74 Likewise, M. Lévêque, describing himself as a long-time wine consumer from L’Etang-laVille in the north of France, congratulated Bonnet on his choice of words, saying that for too long, viticulteurs had tried to make their fellow Frenchmen drink ‘mauvaise piquette’ that none among them ‘n’oserait mettre sur sa table’.75 Aptly expressing the turn in the attitude of many French wine drinkers, Lévêque explains that he ‘bois encore du vins de temps à autre, mais seulement du vin de qualité, dont le prix malheureusement ne me permet pas d’en faire Letter from Dr. J. Lejards to Bonnet. December 29, 1976. 19920339/5, AN.

'Nos lecteurs ont la parole: Maxime Conter, Montrouge, Hauts-de-Seine,' France-Soir, January 4, 1977.

Letter from M. Lévêque to Bonnet. December 27, 1976. 19920339/5, AN.

un usage journalier’.76 In the interwar period, he had travelled across France, drinking wines in Alsace, Bourgogne, Savoies, Beaujolais, and Vaucluse, each of which had wine expressing the character of the area; on the other hand, he thought the viticulteurs of the Midi with both their overproduction of ‘détestable’ wines has made it so that ‘le français n’aime plus le vin, et…l’Etranger ne croit plus aux bons crus de France. Il est temps de réagir’.77 Jean Mendras from Le Figaro, a Languedocien himself, wrote to Bonnet’s brother-in-law to say that ‘Ce trafic du vin, ces coupages, ce gel, cette alchimie pratiquée tant dans mon midi natal…est un véritable scandale connu et su de tous, mais personne n’a pris de mesures impopulaires’.78 Even more uncharacteristically for someone of the region, he insinuated the worst wine in the area was inferior even to similar grades of wine in other countries: ‘A l'heure de l'Europe est-il impossible que le gros rouge qui tache soit moins bon en France qu'en Italie ou en Espagne? Oui, qu'ils crèvent les démagogues qui, le coeur sur la main, prennent la défense de la viticulteur en général, sans faire le départ dans cette grande famille de ceux qui méritent aide et encouragements, et ceux que l'on devrait laisser tomber une fois pour toutes.’79 The suspicions many in the Midi had had of Paris not truly having the interests of table wine producers at heart seemed to them now to be highlighted in undeniable clarity. French politicians in the opposition too, like Socialist Abel Sempé in the Senate, seized on this moment to declare, ‘Nous avons l’impression, monsieur le ministre…je vous le dis franchement, que le gouvernement n’aime pas les vignerons. Or, dans des départements Ibid.

Ibid.

Letter from Jean Mendras to Christian Bonnet. January 19, 1977. 19920339/5, AN.

Ibid.

comme ceux dont vous entendiez parler tout à l’heure, il n’est pas possible de produire autre chose que du vin.’80 Antoine Verdale, the president of the Fédération de caves coopératives de l’Aude, was one of the earliest leaders to see the full extent of the shift in policymaking power as it pertained to vignerons’ concerns: ‘A l’analyse, il apparait donc que la solution de nos problèmes ne dépendent plus du plan national mais bien du plan communautaire. Ainsi donc, alors que nous demandons des dispositions nationales pour corriger «les imperfections libérales» de la réglementation communautaire, le gouvernment français nous renvoit à Bruxelles.’81 The solution proposed by the Fédération, voiced by the secretary general Denis Phalippou, was to continue the regional awakening underway: ‘«La question régionale se pose avec acuité.

Entre le discours parisien et les réalités locales, jamais le fossé n’a été aussi profond….C’est toujours cette organisation technocratique de la société moderne qui éloigne des centres de décision ces viticulteurs qui vivent les réalités quotidienne.» Vivre au pays, c’est-à-dire, pour un viticulteur, vivre des revenus de sa vigne, tel est l’objectif que se propose la Fédération audoise.’82 Vignerons were interested in developing a national office of wine because they hoped to be able to take over the reins of policymaking, and at the least, have more influence over their fate by being a part of or more exposed to the policy-making process. This had meant getting a more direct line to Paris. When growers returned to ONIVIT in the beginning of 1977, the attitude, at least at the moment of re-entry, was now that ONIVIT, for all its problems, was still the best national platform for them to use, though it needed much extensive reform in their view. But it now needed to serve them as a better conduit both to Paris and to Brussels, 'Au Sénat,' La Journée Vinicole, May 18, 1976.





'A la Fédération des caves coopératives de l’Aude ' La Journée Vinicole, May 26, 1976.

Ibid.

for the exposure they had, however unevenly, to the complex terrain of policymaking in the era of a wine policy that operated under the Community, forced them to realise that Paris was now the wrong site for some of the changes they desired to make.

–  –  –

This chapter presents the reactions, opinions, and thoughts of those in the LanguedocRoussillon to the Common Wine Policy from the first juncture that they truly took notice of the policy in 1975, due almost exclusively to the build-up, course of, and fall-out from the Franco-Italian wine crisis, to the breakdown of their relationship with Paris in December 1976.

Paris was not unaware of the seriousness of the dilemma and in many ways, this was a case study of how long a government could allow an untenable situation to continue. What these French local, regional, and national groups were asking for was impossible in the context of Community regulations – the French government could not hope to suspend Italian imports for a long period of time. How did the French government behave when their citizens demanded of them actions that were decidedly not permissible under the Community? Where did their loyalties lie?

The French had invested time and energy into this new European project which in many ways, at the time, they were the veritable leaders of. While the French government may at times have overstepped the line with temporary, and in some ways, showy measures, like the illegal tax it placed on Italian wines, its tacit support of the physical blockade at Sète, or Bonnet declaring that he would not allow the Brussels meetings to end without a happy result for the French vignerons, the government drew the line at making any official or formal steps like those asked for by major, powerful organisations like CNCV, FVTP, or ONIVIT. In fact, the creation of the CWP was largely the work of France and Italy, and the French arguably used the CWP and its Brussels origins as a way to deflect some of the blame they knew would likely come around when table wine sales continued to fall. In a letter on 31 December 1976, made in reply to the one sent by Président Crouzet, Bonnet claimed that ‘les Pouvoirs Publics étaient décidés à mettre fin à la situation inadmissible que nous avons connue [sic] ces dernières années. Vous savez en effet très bien, comme moi, qu’il était plus intéressant, sous l’empire de l’ancien règlement communautaire 816, de faire 200 HL à l’hectare et de conduire à une distillation à 8,66 ou 8,78 un liquide qui méritait à peine le nom de vin, que de s’attacher, avec amour, comme le font les viticulteurs de tradition, à produire de la qualité avec des rendements très inférieurs’.83 The Minister of Agriculture’s statement during the radio interview in December 1976 came at the time when vignerons had been waiting in agitation for serious responses to the wine crisis from their national leaders. The complaints over the slow pace or ineffectiveness of particular measures were genuine, but not nearly as serious in the end as feeling that the French government might not in fact be truly willing to help their plight. Their growing suspicion of this was, to them, confirmed by Bonnet’s words, and the result was an eruption of anger across the Midi which introduced a rift between the French national government and the Midi vignerons. The consequences of this rift, and in particular the major alteration of tactics it produced on the part of the vignerons, will be at the heart of the next chapter’s analysis.

–  –  –

Table Wine and Riots in Languedoc-Roussillon, Part II:

The response of vignerons in Languedoc-Roussillon to the Common Wine Policy, 1977–1980 La vigne, ce n’est pas une richesse, c’est la compagne de tous les jours, avec ses humeurs, ses opulences et ses dépouillements. La vigne lourde de végétation des basses terres, ou celle ciselée de nos coteaux, comporte sa mystique comme le vin comporte son incantation. Ils sont mystère et transcendance. Folie de tous ces Parisiens technocrates de croire que la vigne pourrait être partiellement arrachée du Midi, comme si l’ensemble de corps ne mourrait pas si l’on en arrachait la peau.

- Vendanges améres, Emmanuel Maffre-Baugé Il y a une civilisation du vin. C'est celle où les hommes veulent se connaitre afin de ne pas se combattre.

- Gabriel Delaunay, member of the French Resistance and writer This chapter looks at the period 1977–1980, and the reactions of vignerons in the Languedoc-Roussillon to the Common Wine Policy, which took place in a tense atmosphere characterised by a breakdown in the relationship between Languedoc-Roussillon and Paris.

The Languedoc-Roussillon reaction during this time notably involved wine-growers grouping together at the local and regional level, and becoming more aware of policy negotiations and lobbying at the Brussels level. The disappointment felt by the vignerons in the new national office of wine caused a proliferation of alternative organisations to be either created or enhanced in terms of power and visibility. This was aided by the European Community’s interest both in regionalism in general (a ‘Europe of regions’ movement was underway), and in encouraging and legitimising the grouping together of vignerons into ‘groupements de producteurs’ who were then given preferential aid over individual vignerons.

This period marked the beginning of a change in the general attitude of the vignerons to the European Community. The general tone of Midi vignerons towards the European Community from the start of 1977 moved from a frequent and often aggressive refrain of suggesting France leave the Community, to accepting, if in some cases grudgingly, that the Common Agricultural Policy was a permanent venture, and accordingly learning how to cope with it.

Henri Albert, a regular columnist for La Journée Vinicole, writing in February 1977, marked this new phase by pronouncing ‘Encore ne peut-on oublier que l’Europe existe, qu’on le veuille ou non, avec ses mécomptes, sans doute, et ce n’est pas dans ces colonnes qu’il y faut insister, mais aussi avec ses avantages. La libre circulation de marchandise deviendra de plus en plus une réalité, et nul ne peut l’ignorer’.1 This was reflected in the themes that dominated major wine conferences that year. The main theme of the Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles (FNSEA), the most important and powerful general collective farm lobby in France, was ‘le malaise communautaire’. The key report was delivered by the Secretary General of the Central Paysanne, M. François Guillaume, who was also a member of ONIVIT. His speech focused 'Henri Albert,' La Journée Vinicole, February 12, 1977.

on the Common Wine Policy, in which he stated he believed the moment had come for the Common Market to find ‘un deuxième souffle’.2 He conceded that there was good progress with Green Europe, and with the expansion of provisions for stable prices for consumers, but problems continued to plague the Community: ‘la tourmente montétaire, l’absence de politique d’exportation, le problème des excédents, le régime d’exception dont bénéfice la Grande-Brétagne et enfin la perspective d’élargissement vers le basin méditerranéen ont grippé cette mécanique communautaire qui était ambitieuse et complexe’.3 They were tired of waiting on the French government, because with them their ‘espoirs sont toujours décus’.4 While disappointed with the recent failure of the European negotiations to fix agriculture prices for the 1977–1978 season, they held to an ‘attente attentive’5 with Brussels. The FNSEA conference was also ‘la première sortie officielle’ of the new Minister of Agriculture, Pierre Méhaignerie, Bonnet’s replacement and someone who had long worked for Bonnet’s office.



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