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French winegrowers draining Spanish tankers is "in breach of EU trade laws" says largest Spanish producer

Published:  06 April, 2016

On Monday, the world watched as footage emerged of furious French winegrowers draining Spanish tankers onto the motorway as tensions arose over the volume of cheap wine being imported into the country.

The dispute between French and Spanish producers reached new heights two days ago (April 4), when around 150 winegrowers from Aude and Pyrénées Orientales seized upon a number of tankers travelling into France.

The incident unfolded less than 10 miles from the Spanish border, at the Le Boulou toll barrier, when 70,000 litres of wine were emptied onto the tarmac.

Richard Cochrane, head of the UK office of Felix Solis - the largest producer of Spanish wines - said the French producers' response to the dispute is at odds with the principles of the EU's free trade agreement.

He said: "The most salient thing in this debate is that it is a right of people living within the EU that they can source the products they want from the countries they want. If they want to source a product from Spain because their neighbours might be able to produce it more cheaply, then they're permitted to do so."

Richard CochraneRichard Cochrane

Cochrane refuted French concerns that the wine is sub-standard and explained how Spain is able to produce a cheaper product while still adhering to EU law.

"Spain has the most hectares under vine of anywhere in the world which goes some way to explain how we're able to produce high-quality wines at potentially lower cost," he said.

"In today's world where so much is driven by cost, I'm not surprised that Spanish wines are attractive to buyers in France."

He added: "It's interesting timing considering what is happening on June 23 with Britain's in/out referendum. I think this incident says a lot about where the French producers are on that subject."

The mounting tension comes after figures confirmed that France is now the biggest buyer of Spanish wine.

Bertrand Girard, chief executive of Vinadeis in the Languedoc Roussillon, said he had no specific comment on the situation and did not confirm or deny whether or not the company was involved in the dispute.

However, he said he was aware of the situation.

"We are well aware of many aspects of wine production, wine exchange and wine consumption as a global player acting on a global scene," he said.

"We do our best to analyse and understand the situation from various angles."

Southern French producers have a long history of vigorously protecting their wine production.