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French wine terrorists

Paris, May 25: A shadowy group of wine activists has issued a one-month ultimatum to Nicolas Sarkozy threatening “action” if the new French President fails to help the industry.

The Regional Committee for Viticultural Action (CRAV) has been known to hijack tankers of foreign wine and dynamite government buildings or supermarkets.

In a pre-recorded message delivered to France 3, a regional television channel, from “somewhere in the Languedoc hinterland”, five balaclava-clad men read out a statement addressed to Sarkozy.

Looking more like Corsican nationalists or masked Islamic fundamentalists than winemakers, the “wine terrorists” vowed that if nothing changed and the price they received for their wine had not gone up, they would go “into action”.

In a reference to the French resistance in World War II, the CRAV said it would “come out of the maquis (scrub) and go into action”.

Calling on fellow winemakers to unite, the activists referred to the 1907 winemakers’ uprising in Montpellier, when thousands took to the streets and the army opened fire, killing six.

The intimation was that once again lives could be lost.

While nobody will own up to being a member, it is an open secret that the CRAV is the armed wing of winemakers’ unions of the Languedoc and Roussillon, the highest producing wine region in the world. In France, and the Languedoc-Roussillon in particular, production far outweighs demand.

Emilien Jubineau, the France 3 journalist who filmed the message, said the CRAV members wanted the European Commission to drop its plan to “grub up” 200,000 hectares of vines. They also want Europe to maintain a subsidy for distilling surplus wine into alcohol spirit.

However, Michel-Laurent Pinat, the general manager of the French wine bottlers and distributor’s association, said the militants refused to face the realities of the open market.

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