Champagne’s Wine Growers Protest French Taxes

Police Agricole Protest

Monday November the 5th saw its share of protests, most notably in London where hordes of Guy Fawkes and one Russel Brand were seen protesting in front of Parliament. In France, the stark white masks were replaced by green hats as the country’s farmers gathered to protest against the restrictions and taxes imposed by the French government, as well as the Russian food embargo (link in French). Counted amongst the demonstrations, were Champagne’s vignerons who, as Wine-Searcher reports, were protesting the environmental regulations and taxation on inheritance estates.

The 1,500 grape growers hit the streets of Champagne’s capital, Châlons-en-Champagne, with signs readings, “L’ETAT vendange nos vignes” (THE STATE harvests our grapes) and “Lâchez-nous la grappe !” (a double-entendre: “Let go of our grapes” and “Let go of our balls”). Pascal Férat, the president of SGV, the Champagne grower’s union, stated, “For two years we have suffered from a [steady rise] of both [labor and fiscal] tax, environmental and social [regulations] that ultimately threaten our work, while Champagne creates wealth and contributes to France’s fame.” With the concession that, indeed, Champagne grape growers have it better than most, Férat continued, “we do not want to wait until our heads are underwater to express our dissatisfaction.”

Eggs and straw were thrown, and some fires had to be put out, but the protest was relatively peaceful, especially compared to the Champagne Riots of 1910 and 1911, wherein a civil war was sparked between the châteaux and the grape growers. The latter “sacked the houses of two wine merchants and destroyed the furniture … destroyed another wine depot and also demolished the house” and “tore up fifty acres of vines, which they burned together with the vine keeper’s house.”  [Wine-Searcher] [Image: Flickr/monz_87]