You may have seen this logo that shows a winemaker carrying his barrel of wine on his shoulder. It’s the symbol of the union of independent winemakers in France. Winalist is going to tell you about this key player of the French wine industry, that has dedicated to defend “authentic wines and personalities” for almost 40 years
The story of the Independent Winegrowers
Everything began in the South of France, in the Languedoc Roussillon region more especially. After WWII winemaking cooperatives grew so much they were weakening the independent winegrowers, although the latter had been strongly established in the region for several decades. To protect their independence they decided to create a counter-power in 1978 under the Confédération Nationale des Caves Particulières CNCP (National Confederation of Independent Cellars). The name comes from the harvest declaration on which producers had to indicate whether they were part of cooperatives or independent. By that time, François Chambovet was president of this small group and traveled across France to convince his independent colleagues to join the movement. Two years later, the grouping of Independent Cellars in the Rhone region created the first wine fair to fight against local traders who regulated the market and decided on wine prices.
The CNCP crystallizes the winegrowers’ need and desire to support and to promote their products themselves. The group grew up, a collective brand was created in 1985, a Wine Competition was launched in 1990 and in 2003, faithful to its founding spirit, the CNCP became the Vignerons Indépendants (Independent Winemakers) that now also federates bottlers.
Today, the union counts 7000 members and the collective brand “Vignerons Indépendants” has recently achieved a 70% awareness among wine consumers.
The union’s organization
Its strength lies in pooling energy and resources. The union implements common promoting actions and implement communication campaigns using the collective brand logo, which has become a reference for consumers. Its organization represents its second asset. The independent winemakers are organized in:
- CEVI (European Confederation of Independant Winemakers)
Established in 2002, the CEVI defends the Common Agricultural Policy with 11 national organizations of independent winemakers united in a common voice in Brussels. The CEVI advocates an independent viticulture that is sustainable and environment friendly.
- VIF (Independant Winemakers of France)
At the national level, the Independant Winemakers union has become a privileged interlocutor for the public authorities, various institutions and professional bodies. The Board of Directors is the decision-making body of the union. They meet several times a year and determine the policies and actions to be taken.
- 11 Regional Federations of Independent Winemakers
They pursue the departmental federations’ initiatives and provide a representation role with regional authorities.
- 32 Departmental Federations of Independent Winemakers
Despite their regional diversity, independent winemakers all have the same job and share common problems. The departmental federations defend the profession along with independent winemakers on a day-to-day basis and provide them with numerous services: advice, preferential purchasing conditions, training, legal or marketing help.
The first action of an independent winemaker is to sign the union’s charter. He or she hence commits to these following criteria:
Thereafter, he or she can put the logo of the Vignerons Indépendants on his or her bottles. In addition to promoting the independent winemaker profession towards public authorities, the union also develops new growth drivers for its members. Those are kept informed about wine industry with the “Vignerons Indépendants” newsletter they received every three months.
The union continually evolves with the trends of wine industry. In 2015, independent winemakers launched their online direct sale service. The following year, they included articles and services related to wine tourism. For 3 years in the Côte Vermeille, independent wine growers have shown tourists around in the vineyards of Banyuls-sur-Mer in order to promote their profession, their wines and their terroir (the natural environment in which a wine is produced). In Provence, the Federation of Independent Winemakers of the Var welcomes all kinds of artists to expose in union’s members’ vineyards and to provide visitors with walks, jazz concerts, gourmet food and ephemeral art.
The movement daily works to increase its reputation among the general public and among professionals. Getting more popular requires advertising campaigns, operations with large retailers, development of digital media (Vente-privee.com, Google campaigns and social networks for example), but also managing a club of partner companies, organizing wine competitions and an annual congress. As a symbol of the union’s diligent work, a contact book with all the members’ vineyard open to the visit is available and updated each year.
The Vignerons Indépendants Wine Fair in Paris is the largest fair in the world open to the general public, and the Vignerons Indépendants Wine Contest is the 3rd biggest competition in France (5,000 samples were sent during the last edition). Nearly forty years later, the union still provides a relevant help with these winegrowers’ interests and work against the growing power of cooperatives and the decreasing popularity of collective agricultural policies.
Also published on Medium.