«The London School of Economics and Political Science Wine In Their Veins: France and the European Community’s Common Wine Policy, 1967-1980 Maria ...»
This change in attitude towards the Community is likewise reflected in the new, more outward looking purview of the previously insular Midi. For example, on February 11, 1979, Jean-Baptiste Benet, a Midi vigneron most well-known in France for being secretary general of the Fédération nationale des vins de table et des vins de pays (FVTP) and president of the Comité consultatif viti-vinicole, oversaw a meeting where the French delegation consisted almost entirely of Midi wine personalities.26 It was a meeting that was very different to the Comité meetings of the past, in which members were more active in using the group to meet their aims, and in the cooperation between particular groups. The meeting saw the Italian and French producers acting, as they had increasingly over the previous two years, in concert, staunchly protesting against the propositions of the Commission for a price freeze on agricultural products.
wine’29 – they were quite adamant about not calling them ‘producteurs’ – the Italians and French producers at the meeting ‘ont fait les plus expresses réserves, estimant que ces produits non conformes à la réglementation européenne, doivent cesser d’être fabriqués afin d’être remplacés par des vins loyaux et marchands issus de la fermentation du jus de raisins frais’.30 The producer representatives from both countries also expressed to the group at large their condemnation of ‘toute politique de diminution systématique et définitive des superficies de vigne en Europe’ especially ‘dans l’éventualité d’un élargissement de la C.E.E.
à trois pays viticoles’.31 This was not a position shared by the négoce or merchants, and it was, in fact, a position that the French government had been very active in promoting for not only the entire decade, openly or otherwise, but had during negotiations, established as one of their interests in creating a European wine policy. In light of the deepening concern with the entry of Mediterranean Members – ‘l’élargissement menace’32 – the French and Italians even came to an important compromise before the meeting, announcing at it that their ‘pointes de vues…se sont considérablement rapprochées sur le problème de critères de détermination des zones viticoles en trois catégories’33, which had previously been an issue of considerable contention between the two parties. They were determined to resist the current categories and push for the inclusion of a fourth that encompassed terroirs. The Commission was not bound to the decisions and stances the Comité consultatif took on issues, but were promised by the Directorate-General of Agriculture to be taken most seriously in policy decisions. They were certainly afforded more attention after the wine crisis of 1975, though the Comité still sometimes grumbled about being limited ‘à un rôle seulement académique.’34 Likewise, the Ibid.
'Assurant l'avenir de son vignoble le départment de l'Aude deviendra-t-il «le réservoir des semences en Europe»?,' La Journée Vinicole - special supplement, April 17, 18, 19, 1979.
'L'éternel refraine d'une vieille complainte?.' 'Le Comité des profesionnels viticoles de la CEE et e Comité consultatif viti-vinicole étudient sous la présidence de M. Benet les mesures propres à équilibrer le marché,' La Journée Vinicole, November 15, 1976.
Working Group on Wine in the combined major European agricultural lobby group, COPACOGECA, saw a number of active Midi vignerons.35 There was also particular interest in the European Parliament which, despite its lack of power relative to the Commission or Council in the 1970s and 1980s, was the forum the vignerons seemed to feel was most accessible to them. In fact, on July 17, 1979, two Midi vigneron leaders themselves became Members of European Parliament – Georges Sutra de Germa, the president of the Cave de Tourbes who became an MEP allied with the Parti Socialiste, and Emmanuel Maffre-Baugé, a member of the Parti communiste français. Earlier in the year Maffre-Baugé had released a book in which he had very clearly expressed his dislike of ‘Bruxelles…ce palais de la paperasse, cette capitale-Babel, où vivent de hauts fonctionnaires courtois, discrets, «neutres»’.36 What had driven these Midi leaders to finally engage at the Brussels level, despite their distrust of the European Community,37 was their unhappy belief that ONIVIT and its equivalent for merchants ANIVIT38, were no longer of use as organisations to Midi vignerons if ANIVIT could continue to violate regulations on restrictions of imports while ONIVIT was unable to do anything about it.
The incident Sutra de Germa and Maffre-Baugé are referring to was one where ANIVIT had loosely set a suggested limitation, to be on the whole self-policed by négociants, of 400,000 hectolitres of wine imported per month – which should have meant around 5 million hectolitres in imports in the 1978-1979 season. Sutra and Maffre-Baugé insisted it was more COPA, the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations (Comité des Organisations Professionnelles Agricoles de l'Union Européenne), was formed on September 6, 1958 shortly after the agriculture-dominated Stresa Conference by farmers concerned about the previous year’s Treaty of Rome, which contained major portions of the coming Common Agricultural Policy. COGECA, the General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives (Comité Général de la Coopération Agricole de l'Union Européenne), was formed almost precisely a year after COPA, and the two merged in December 1962.
Emmanuel Maffre-Baugé, Face à l'Europe des impasses (Toulouse: Privat, 1979), 48.
This was also extensively documented in Maffre-Baugé’s book ‘Face à l’Europe des impasses’. (ibid.) The full title of ANIVIT, the national French organisation for merchants, is Association Nationale Interprofessionnelle des Vins de Table.
likely to be 8 million by the close of October.39 Apparently, Maffre-Baugé intended not to be one of his disliked ‘hauts fonctionnaires aux froids regards, aux sourires dilatoires, aux paroles évasives, sur lesquels votre faim de clarté, de prise en charge des problèmes posés, s’use et s’érode’.40 While Maffre-Baugé’s line of argumentation was traditional in claiming that the ‘«marasme du marché» est lié aux importations d’Italie, faites à bas prix, à la diminution notable du pouvoir d’achat des Français, à la «libéralisation anarchique des prix avec un distorsion entre prix de production et prix à la consommation»’41, and it was these beliefs – along with his impressive oratory and penchant for drama (his nickname was ‘Emmanuel le Flamboyant’) – that won him his very strong support amongst conservative French table wine producers, the situation was at the end of the 1970s not as complicated as Maffre-Baugé made it out to be.
Even as staunchly pro-Midi vigneron as it was, La Journée Vinicole conceded in May 1979 in a significant front-page article that the major issue facing vignerons was that the wine market ‘traverse une crise d’adaptation avec un changement de style de consommateur (on boit moins, quoique mieux, la qualité gagne sur la quantité)’, 42 a marked shift in tone and attitude to the previously espoused view usually held to in its pages that the Brussels institutions and their policies were either apathetic or harmful.
It was Brussels, again, that was the cause of occasional alliances between producers and merchants, as Marcel Laugel reported that, in response to the new and explicit Brussel line that reducing production was the way to achieve market balance, ‘Il va de soi que viticulture et négoce ne partagent pas du tout ce point de vue. C’est précisément en diminuant la 'Les importations Italiennes remises en cause,' La Journée Vinicole, August 30, 1979.
Maffre-Baugé, Face à l'Europe des impasses, 49.
'Les importations Italiennes remises en cause.' '«Un véritable partenaire pour les professionnels du vin»: Entretien avec M. Jean Perroux,' La Journée Vinicole, May 8, 1979.
production qu’on risque de désorganiser, de déséquilibrer un marché. La production étant tantôt insuffisante, tantôt abondante, on crée soit une pénurie, soit un surabondance : on crée ainsi des fluctuations de cours, en encourage la spéculation et finalement on lèse producteurs et consommateurs. Diminuer la production, c’est décidément la plus mauvaise manière l’équilibrer le marché’.43 Laugel instead reported that the solution was to reduce taxes on wine, have progressive custom taxes on wines from non-EC countries, develop international marketing for European Community wines, encourage the viticultural family farm, and pull back the anti-alcohol campaign (he added that ‘les professionnels du vin sont les premiers adversaires de l’alcoolisme’44). Laugel finished his article that stating that ‘Il est inadmissible qu’on cherche à imposer l’arrachage, la destruction, pour faire diminuer la production…dans la Communauté. Pour équilibrer l’économie viti-vinicole européenne et mondiale, il n’y a qu’un seul moyen : faire augmenter la consommation!’. This last point was a line of weak argumentation quite often presented by vignerons in response to the wine situation in the 1970s, but one which was rarely accompanied by any kind of explanation. Laugel’s proposed solutions too all stressed the impetus on the state to act to improve the situation in the Languedoc; despite these types of views continuing to be espoused in the public arena, they were becoming less popular, as through 1978 and 1979 the tone of articles in La Journée Vinicole changed to one that was more cosmopolitan and outward looking in nature.
Looking outward, however, meant having to confront some views on the wine of the Languedoc that were less than complimentary. Against a backdrop of decreasing wine consumption domestically in France, French vignerons also faced the consequences of the steadily increasing quality and appreciation of wines beyond the traditional French and Italian ones. Spain and Portugal were in particular making notable efforts with their wineries and 'Quelle réglementation du marché communautaire des vins en Octobre?,' La Journée Vinicole, September 4, 1979.
there was some wariness of French wines generally that had spilled over after a Bordeaux fraud crisis in 1973, where the prominent Cruse family, owners of Château Pontet-Canet, was accused of having blended Rioja with their own wine, and attempted to pass off the mixture as Bordeaux, in response to which one of the family members committed suicide.45 As well, the confidence in quality and in particularly quality for price in Bordeaux wine was also deeply affected worldwide after the crash in Bordeaux prices in the early 1970s. At the end of 1972 through to the beginning of 1973, the prices of Bordeaux wines underwent a sudden speculative rise on the international market, some of them quadrupling within a four week period. Then, in the middle of 1973, there was a sudden drop, causing the prices of red but especially white wines to crash. This caused great chaos in Bordeaux, and their leading organisational unit, the Conseil Interprofessional de Vins de Bordeaux (CIVB), fell apart and disbanded in the midst of the storm. Before retreating further still into an already regionally insular shell, the CIVB declared themselves and their wines to be ‘the victims of external, international speculation which nowadays can occur via extremely powerful means and in a brutal fashion.’46 Further to this was a shocking watershed moment for French wine in 1976 at a tasting which would afterwards become known as ‘The Judgement of Paris’. Steve Spurrier, a British wine enthusiast and importer of French wines, held a tasting in Paris designed to showcase the increasing quality of Californian wines. He purportedly did not expect the wines to do very well, but thought the Californian wines, ranked next to some reputationally outstanding French wines – including some exclusive first growths from Haut Brion and Mouton Rothschild – would not be obviously and immediately differentiated from these stars of the wine world. There were eleven judges, of whom nine were French and all of whom were Lars Holmberg, 'Wine Fraud,' International Journal of Wine Research 2(2010): 108.
Meeting minutes of the General Assembly of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB),
1977. 29J CIVB (37, 38, 39), private archives of the CIVB.
notable personalities, including Gascon chef Raymond Oliver and Odette Kahn, editor of La Revue du vin de France; the other two judges – Spurrier himself and American Patricia Gallagher – participated in assessing the wines along with the French judges but their votes were excluded from the final ranking. The results publically appeared in an article on Monday June 7, 1976 in Time Magazine by George M. Taber, which began: ‘Americans abroad have been boasting for years about California wines, only to be greeted in most cases by polite disbelief – or worse….Last week in Paris, at a formal wine tasting organized by Spurrier, the unthinkable happened’47: a Californian wine topped each tasting category.