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Food & Drink

Rivers of red: 'Wine terrorists' flood French city in protest

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The streets ran red in the Mediterranean port of Sète, France, Tuesday night after a suspected attack by a shadowy group of homegrown "terrorists."

The Comité d'Action Viticole (Wine Action Committee) — commonly known as “wine terrorists” — claimed responsibility for pouring an estimated 5,000 to 13,000 gallons of red wine out of five giant vats owned by a local wine merchant and spilling them onto the Avenue du Maréchal-Juin, the French newspaper L’Express reported.

Firefighters spent half an hour draining the mess, but the damage was done: The wine flooded cellars and cars along the avenue and left the town smelling like a frat house on a Sunday morning.

The Wine Action Committee, previously known as CRAV, has advocated protecting local produce from foreign imports for nearly 50 years and it has taken dramatic and sometimes violent action to keep France’s biggest wine-growing region free of imported wines. In recent years it has hijacked tankers of wine and dynamited government buildings and supermarkets, The Telegraph reported.

The group’s leader, the late Jean Vialade, was a local antihero. Legend has it that the late Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi once sent a delegation to offer Vialade $50 million and military training to “overthrow the French government,” according to The Telegraph.

The Wine Action Committee is suspected of hijacking five tankers filled with Spanish wine in April and pouring their contents – the equivalent of 90,000 bottles – down the drain.

Spain is now the biggest wine exporter in the world and France is its best customer, having bought 172 million gallons of Spanish wine – 25 percent of Spain’s total exports – last year, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.