cave cooperatives: the end?

2 Replies

Hello I wonder if anyone else has noticed the effects of the current crisis as it effects the wine growers of the Languedoc and notably those who grow wine for the Cave Cooperatives. I have followed the growth of the Cooperative movement here in the Languedoc since its inception in the early party of the 1900's, to what I will describe as its demise, practically 100 years later and whilst the movement in general is still trying to maintain order against the onslaught of rentabilité, the seeming disarray of the Cave Cooperative system now appears a friendly outpost against a rising tide of profit at all costs. Events in the last few weeks in our area of the wine producing world will soon be reflected in all villages and towns whose principal activity in the past has centred around viticulture and the arrival will be quick and deadly not only for prices but also for quality and understanding. No longer will the Coops be regarded as a typical example of a way of life which was to go on forever ,now the profit and bottom line are the priordial driving forces behind those imposing structures . Some may regard the advances as part of the inevitble encroachment of bank style profits as the just desserts for hard pressed vignerons but they will be under no illusion after the recption of this weeks mail that the profit will remain in the hands of those larger groups who have been bankrolling the cash payouts since Christmas but all this comes at a cost and local control of simple events no longer resides with the local controllers who quite often were virgins in the forests of wealth Big industrial groups of producers will try to rival the unique buying powers of the supermarkets by holding out for the best prices and they should have an impact in the long term. Reasoned commerce will need to be the answer in the years to come but many growers will fall by the wayside and villages will be striven in two because growers who remain with the old sytem of exploitation will come head to head with growers whose only concern is to rasie grapes clean and so pesticide ridden the inevitable contamination and publication on the reverse of the label will cause people to stop drinking such polutants. In this forum I hope to find out the opinions of others in the same circumstances, who have an actif part in their Coop but are struggling to get a return for the effort expended. I can name at least five growers with small parcelles who will be forced to consider their possession of vineyards because ergonomically they are not able to comply with the cahier des charges imposed from an absentee landlord.If you are interested and have comments to make I would be pleased to discuss them - SaludPeter J Finn

Featured Classified


michelle huber 1274372038

G'day Peter

As a newbi t anglo info I have only just come across your post. As a qualified wine maker working mainly in the L-R area I totally agree with what you have to say.

The main problem results with the "cahier de charges" that were put into place in the 60-70's aiming to reduce the amount of wine produced in this region and pushing the vine growers towards smaller but better quality growing rather than mass production. Threfore the cave coop system inplace at that time suffered grately due to smaller production and forced to shut or regroupe with the other cave coops in the surronding villages.

Now with the new world wines taking over and selling easier in europe the sales of french wines has some what plummeted and therefore killing off whats left of the smaller companies.

The "cahier de charges" along with the restrictions vis a vis of the French laws really do not help our cause either. The new world countries being aloud to use lots of chemical products that we can no longer use in France in the vineyards and winerys aswell as the prohibition of irrigation systems on any wines classed above "vin de table" or "vin de pays".

Unfortunatly the wine industry is no longer an industry where we can plan a future especially in this region, most of the surproduction that still existes is trucked up to the Champagne or Cognac region to make fake AOC wines which I find just totally wrong.

The best way forward these days for any small grape growers in this region is to go bio and vinify and sell directly in which case, to make a living you need to love spending 24/24 talking to your vines and wines and be a bloody good sales man.

Long live French wines in the hope that one day soon the market will pick back up, that there will be enough growers to support e cave coops so that they can once again support us and that we rule the universe by having the best wines in the world.


santiago-494558 1276942029

I too have only just read this and must admit I couldn't follow the line of thought very easily.

The situation in France and the world today is that more wine is produced than is required. The Coops were set up at a time when the opposite situation existed and Coops offered an economic way to produce wine grown by many growers. It allowed people to participate even if they owned a small parcel of land. That situation still exists - if your parcel of land is in St Emilion, Burgundy or Champagne, because those wines are still in high demand. The generic wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon are no longer in demand.

It is not the cooperative system that is at the heart of the problem. It is overproduction of questionable quality wines at prices that are still not competitive with New World wines. Despite popular local opinion, this is not because the foreigners use more pesticides or receive massive state funding. It is because the wine-farms of the New World were set up from the start to be more efficient. It's all very romantic having 2 ha of vines and tending them at the weekend but you cannot expect to be as economically viable as a 1000ha mechanised farm in Chile.

The Cooperative system has flaws in that the Coop is owned and run by the growers who are paid by weight, not quality. Some Coops have turned this around and are successful, the rest will go bankrupt.

Unless you make a wine that is better and therefore in higher demand than the competition, nobody is going to buy it.

I'm not sure where the Cahier des Charges comes in to play. These are designed to guarantee the origin of a wine and to try to encourage professionalism in wine production. They apply to every wine producer, not just the Coops. Many of the rules are irrelevant to the market, but that is France I'm afraid.

I don't see why going bio will solve the problem - unless people can be persuaded to part with more money just because the wine says bio on it. There are too many cooperateurs who think that just making and bottling the wine themselves will solve their problem. If the wine is poor quality, they will need god-like powers of salesmanship, which the average grower does not have.

Join the discussion