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Published:  23 July, 2008

The Midi came to the boil once again last week as a 47-year-old wine grower was sentenced to six months in jail for his part in the sacking of government offices in Montpellier. The judgement came the day after the Vinisud Mediterranean wine fair closed in the same city. Things are going to get really stormy now,' said a regional syndicate leader, one of 500 growers who gathered outside the courthouse to await the court's decision. Jean-Luc Granier of Valros in the Hrault dpartement was accused of participating in the wrecking of the Montpellier offices of the government's anti-fraud organisation on 1 August, 2000. Despite the Midi's history of demonstrations, he was the first viticulteur in recent times to answer charges arising from the actions of viticultural action committees. The attack came during a day of demonstrations against imported foreign wines, which Languedoc growers blame for the crisis. Though all the men were masked, police claimed to have identified Granier from his four silver earrings caught by TV cameras. They also claimed he was caught by surveillance cameras when, two hours later, demonstrators attacked a Bziers hypermarket. Granier, the sole defendant, denies the charges. After the case, which also saw Granier ordered to pay e14,982 (9,600) compensation, Jean Huillet, president of the Hrault co-operative movement, condemned the judgement as a political decision'. He added: Today, it's viticulture as a whole which has been judged.' He promised there would be an appropriate reply on behalf of Languedoc wine growers. Granier was released, pending appeal. * The week also saw better news for Languedoc wine producers, with the European Commission's announcement of an emergency distillation facility covering four million hectolitres of vin de table - almost 20% of France's total VdT production. The move had been demanded by Languedoc representatives convinced it was the only way to drain excess production from the market, re-establish realistic prices and so heave the region out of its most serious crisis in years. Nevertheless, disagreements persist over the price to be paid for distillation.