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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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The result of all these incidents, amongst others, was the start of a general suspicion that France was not necessarily the undisputed world leader in wine. In 1979, this very particularly came to affect the Midi, when a New York Times article had appeared which skewered wines in the Midi, calling them, ‘exécrable breuvage’, ‘vin maigre, âpre, sans caratère’, and ‘saloperies produites dans le Midi.’ Again, despite the prominence and widereach of the article, it was a while before the region got word of it – the article appeared August 26, and it was a month before a daily regional newspaper and thereafter, La Journée Vinicole, got word of the story. The heads of the Comité économique agricole des vins de table et de pays du Languedoc-Roussillon (CEVILAR) and the Centre méridional de promotion de l’agriculture par la coopération (CEPRACO), M. Courret and M. Crouzet respectively, gave interviews to La Journée Vinicole in response. The ultimate question the flabbergasted newspaper asked was how this could have happened. Both Courret and Courzet responded without hesitating that the blame belonged to Bonnet. As they said, ‘«Comment dans ces conditions ne pas se souvenir des propos de M. Christian Bonnet sur la «bibine» et les considérations qu’il tenait sur l’avenir des viticulteurs languedociens : Qu’ils crèvent»…Il 'Modern Living: Judgment of Paris,' Time, June 7, 1976.

est évident qu’un journaliste américain n’aurait pu rédiger un article aussi scandaleux sans «l’exemple» ainsi donné par un ministre français de l’Agriculture’.48 Three years on, the words that Bonnet had uttered in that fateful radio interview were still ingrained in the popular Midi mindset. In fact, Bonnet’s words reverberated even over a decade later, entering local lore about the north-south divide; while being interviewed in the late 1980s about the differences between the Midi and other French regions, small-farm vigneron Marcel Mas stated, ‘Those people up there (in Paris) don’t care about us down here. They only care about the rich farmers of the north who have power and the money and so they gear their policies to make them happy. The state buys their votes. Do you know what the Minister of Agriculture once said about us, down here in the midi. Let viticulture die! (Que la viticulture crève!) So now do you see why we Occitan wine growers are against the state?’49 Both Courret and Crouzet, however, in presenting their suggested solutions, exemplified the new direction of Midi vignerons – relying more on themselves and acting via their local and regional organisations. They claimed this was the moment that their profession, particularly those in cooperatives, ‘a mis sur pied les instruments efficaces de coordination de son action commercial,’ which was traditionally the role of merchants. Likewise, they championed rallying around regional options to help promote their international image – for instance, they thought that CEVILAR (interestingly enough, funded by the French government) ‘doit être l’outil privilégié de toute politique d’exportation des vins de notre région. C’est autour de cet instrument que doit être organisée, aux Etats-Unix comme dans les autres pays étrangers, une action commerciale de grande envergure’.50 'Coincidence troublante… : Un article violent et mensonger du New York Times contre les vins du Midi,' La Journée Vinicole - special supplement, September 29, 30, October 1, 1979.

Interview with Marcel Mas as recorded in Lem, Cultivating Dissent: Work, Identity and Praxis in Rural Languedoc, 92.

'Coincidence troublante… : Un article violent et mensonger du New York Times contre les vins du Midi.' At Brussels, Around Community Institutions Midi vignerons engaged with the policy process not only with Brussels institutions, but also around Brussels institutions. They joined different groups at the European level, making use of a new – and to them relatively unknown - political platform. In the early 1960s especially, they were near channels of influence, but were kept outside of halls of principal decisionmaking. Here, the initial structure of key lobby institutions reflected structures and pressure points in the French wine industry. There were two major organisations: the first was the Comité des professionnels viticoles de la CEE, which had existed since roughly 1956 and which aimed at bringing together all the viticultural syndicate organisations in the Community with the goal of defining the position of producers ahead of the Comité consultatif meetings; the second, its counterpart in trade, was the Comité vin. The Comité des professionnels viticoles de la CEE was the first major non-governmental body bringing together all vignerons in the European Community and who attempted to lobby the Community institutions in the collective interests of vignerons.

The major group within the Comité des professionnels viticoles de la CEE organising, directing, and speaking on behalf of the Comité was the Fédération des Associations Viticoles de France (FAVF). On May 5, 1962, Mme. Muller, a general delegate of FAVF requested a representative of the Division in charge of relations with non-governmental organisations attend the general assembly meeting of the FAVF.51 Her request being turned down, she issued a second invitation a month later in her role as secretary general of the Comité, which was again turned down.52 Little exchange occurred except for formalities on Letter series between Muller and the Community, BAC 71/1984.20, HAEC.





Ibid.

sending copies of Community meeting minutes on the creation of a wine market, at which agricultural stakeholder groups were conspicuously absent.

By 1977 however, rather either than channel displeasure through the Comité des professionnels viticoles de la CEE or use conduits in Paris, groups such as CNCV were directly addressing Brussels. For example CNCV sent direct invitations to Brussels for representatives to join their annual general meetings beginning in the mid-1970s, which from 1977 were actually taken up by Brussels functionaries. In his report on their July 19, 1980 AGM, Pierre Pignot was careful to observe fractions among the group, noting that two members in particular, M. Couré and M. Soulié, did not appreciate the speech given by M.

Villain, who was considered, together with Antoine Verdale, not to have addressed the European Community’s ‘l’apologie du libéralisme laxiste.’53 Drawing ire from some of the assembled constituents, Mr. Villain’s speech in particular had praised three men above all for helping address the ‘véritables problems viticoles’: M. Méhaignerie, the French Minister of Agriculture at the time, M. Marcora, the Italian Minister of Agriculture, and Finn Gundelach, Commissioner for Agriculture and Vice-President of the Commission. He noted at least for the first time in several years that the meeting seemed for the most part to be conducted in some serenity, and that the majority of presidents of the caves seemed to appreciate what had been accomplished in the last four years. However, he commented that the Community’s wine policy, as it affected table wine, was heavily criticised still for being too lax, not addressing intra-community imports, and its pricing policies. He complained too that ‘il est difficile à certains dirigeants très anti-marché commun de reconnaître les faits’.

Note from Adrien Ries to M. Villain, attached to the official report from Pierre Pignot on the July 19, 1980 general assembly meeting of the Confédération Nationale des Cooperatives Vinicoles, BAC 71/1984.20, HAEC.

In a bid to have one representative group for those in the wine industry, the Comité consultatif viti-vinicole auprès de la Commission de la CEE was created, which was supposed to be the major advisory board to the Commission. The Commission intended this group to bridge the gap between the two current non-governmental groups existing, with producers on one side and trade on the other. Both groups immediately attempted to install one of their own as head. For instance, the major – and unqualified – request from the Comité des professionnels viticoles was that the president of the group be a representative of the producer family (either a ‘viticulteur ou coopérateur’). The Comité consultatif viti-vinicole, which was a working group composed of wine professionals – in the form of growers and trade representatives – provided advice on the organisation of the Common Wine Market to the Commission. In the usual style of confusing nomenclature in the Community, the Comité consultatif viti-vinicole should not be confused with the Comité vin54, which was comprised of government representatives for each member state, nor the Comité de Gestion des vins, which was the wine management committee that was part of the Commission and through which it made decisions on wine-based issues. A close cousin was the meetings of government experts on viticultural issues (‘experts gouvernementaux des questions viticoles’) who were not a formally organised group as such but who tended to meet before Comité de Gestion des vins meetings.

–  –  –

Despite their increasing engagement with both Paris and Brussels, however, Midi vignerons felt picked on by both groups. The Midi vignerons may have forged new paths, but the relationships they had were still prickly. This served to heighten the sense of LanguedocIts full title was the Comité de la Communauté économique européenne des industries et du commerce des vins, vins aromatisés, vins mousseux, vins de liqueur.

Roussillon identity, despite exposure to policy-making processes at the national and supranational levels.

In June 1978, reaction to new proposals of the Community to grub up vines, the office of the Mission Regionale of Languedoc-Roussillon commented on the reactions of the viticulteurs, who, ‘tout en reconnaissant certains mérites au programme de restructuration et de reconversion de la viticulture établi par la directive du Conseil des Communautés du 19 Juin 1978, le critiquaient vivement parce qu’il ne prévoyait de reconversion que pour le vignoble du Midi de la France : ils estimaient, en effet, que cette région ayant une vocation viticole affirmée, il eût été plus judicieux d’envisager l’arrachage d’autres vignobles, marginaux, et réclamaient au moins une généralisation du programme’.55 Likewise, in September 1978, the issue of whether or not chaptalisation would be allowed that year for the Languedoc-Roussillon was being discussed by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Many were asking for chaptalisation in the south, hoping to improve the alcoholic content in their wine that year. A worried, Maurice Lambert, Préfet de Languedoc-Roussillon et l’Hérault wrote to Paris to say they needed to quickly decide for dallying would aggravate an group that already felt maligned: ‘Je me permet tout particulièrement d’appeler votre attention sur l’urgence…tout retard risque, en effet, d’aggraver encore l’état d’esprit du monde viticole et ne pourra que renforcer la position des responsables professionnels au regard de l’opinion publique, en leur permettant de développer encore davantage le thème selon lequel “les viticulteurs mal aimés du Midi n’ont d’autre ressource que de prendre euxmêmes en main une situation dans laquelle les Pouvoirs Publics sont défaillants”’.56 ‘Nouvelles Propositions de la Commission de la C.E.E. (Rapport du 31/07/78).’ From the office of the Mission Régionale, Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon. Undated (likely beginning of August 1978). 1084W/171, AH.

Letter from Maurice Lambert to Pierre Méhaignerie. September 5, 1978. 1084W/171, AH.

The Close of the Decade This new attitude of both relying more on themselves, investing energy in local and regional outfits both new and old, and using them to reach for solutions either at the Brussels level or with Brussels was expressed at the end of the 1979 growing season in October when the largest harvest yet of the decade – at 83 million hectolitres of wine, it was 13 million more than expert groups like ONIVIT had estimated only a month and a half earlier – faced French vignerons. The response of Midi vignerons was that they were counting on the interprofessional structures and the Community mechanisms for wine – the French government was not mentioned.57 The immediate action taken by the French government was, for the first time, to provide ONIVIT with a budget for the promotion of French wines – the provision of this sum of 15 million francs was a far simpler solution than devising policy and also had the added benefit of requiring that the growers and producers worked together.

In looking over and assessing the 1970s as the decade came to a close, La Journée Vinicole declared that the 1970s was most prominently marked by the rise of cooperatives in wine and that ‘la coopération est définitivement sortie de sa longue période d’immobilisme’.58 In 1979, cooperatives accounted for approximately 70% of overall wine production in the region. As well, the decade was notable for growers and merchants working together in earnest for the first time. The beginning of November 1979 marked the first anniversary of CEVILAR, which was working on ‘prolonger les accords interprofessionnels par des négotiations «complémentaires» entre les groupements de producteurs et un certain nombre de grandes 'L'ONIVIT face à une campagne problématique et à 15 millions pour la promotion,' La Journée Vinicole, October 25, 1979.

'Les vins de table consommables en l’état devraient faire l’objet d’un accord-cadre entre les groupements de producteurs et une partie du grand négoce,' La Journée Vinicole, November 7, 1979.



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