Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Wrath of Grapes

France doesn't have enough problems. Now they have to deal with militant wine makers.

France’s wine guerrillas gun for Sarkozy
They may be novices in the world of bombings and bala-clava helmets but France’s “wine commandos” are determined to attract attention.

More usually associated with life’s pleasures, French wine makers have sunk to depths of gloom over dwindling returns and a deepening “wine lake” as a result of competition from the New World.

Instead of adapting, however, some are blaming the government. In an extraordinary signal of discontent – and disconnection from reality – they have promised terrorist attacks unless Nicolas Sarkozy, the new president, does something to shore up prices.

In a routine familiar from Bilbao to Baghdad, figures in black balaclavas issued an ultimatum to Sarkozy in a video broadcast on French television. “If nothing has changed in a month,” it said, “and if prices for wine have not risen again . . . wine makers will take action.”

It might have seemed funny were it not for the record of thuggery: the hooded figures were members of CRAV, a militant group from Languedoc, in southern France, that has already shot at lorries transporting foreign wine and vandalised supermarkets suspected of “collaborating” with foreign suppliers.

“That is just a warm-up,” said a spokesman for the group, warning that “blood will flow” unless Sarkozy steps in to support the faltering industry.

The 52-year-old Sarkozy has infuriated union leaders with pledges to get France working again through a series of market reforms. But the wine producers’ resentment of the president may have more to do with the fact that he does not drink alcohol.

How can we trust a president who doesn’t like wine?” asked Philippe Prévert, a producer from the Loire.
Perish the thought. A sober man leading their country.

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