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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jim Budd

Protests by 7,000 angry producers in Montpellier on 9 March have been overshadowed by violence both before and during the protest. During the demonstration a policeman was knocked off his scooter and slightly injured by a group of producers, who then set fire to the scooter before running away. Six hundred French riot police had been called in to control the demonstrators. More significantly, there were three attacks on Monday 7 March against three ngociant businesses. There was a bomb attack at Domaine de la Baume, to the east of Bziers and now owned by Les Grands Chais de France. Another nearby business was also attacked, as well as one at Beaucaire in the Gard. Explosives were placed at the door to Domaine de la Baume's barrel cellar, causing damage to the cellar roof and the cellar door to be blown away. No one was injured and a police enquiry is underway. The CRAV (Comit Rgional d'Action Viticoles), a dissident group of Languedoc wine producers, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bruno Kessler, chief winemaker for the Les Grands Chais de France Group said: We work very well with a large number of producers in the Languedoc region and are responsible for buying approximately 30% of all Vin de Pays d'Oc wine. We choose to work with progressive producers who wish to make wines for the world market of today. Long-term contracts with Les Grands Chais de France have enabled a number of our partners to make substantial investments in modern equipment. Unfortunately, there are still some winegrowers who do not yet understand that it is necessary to move with the times. It is a very small minority of these who are responsible for criminal acts such as the attack on La Baume.' Earlier on Monday a group of around 100 producers from the Gard took over the motorway toll station at Remoulins, allowing drivers on the Autoroute A9, that runs from Avignon to the Spanish border, a free journey. They also set fire to wooden palettes on roundabouts in Bagnols-sur-Cze in the southern Rhne Valley. The demonstration was called by the various producer syndicats to protest against the e70 million ($93.7 million) package of measures announced by Dominique Bussereau, the French Minister of Agriculture, on 31 January. Exports from Languedoc-Roussillon fell in 2004 by 7.% in volume and by 6.78% in value. Wine industry representatives from Languedoc-Roussillon are due to meet the Bussereau, the French Agriculture Minister on 22 March. This follows a meeting the Minister had with representatives from Bordeaux on 17 February.