French wine police are on the hunt for Burgundy grape thieves

A relatively new phenomenon is affecting grape harvests in Burgundy - theft. The French police are on the case - and on their bikes.

French wine police are on the hunt for Burgundy grape thieves
A Burgundy vineyard during harvesting. Photo: AFP:

Mounted on bikes and motorcycles, these gendarmerie officers are charged with protecting Burgundy's celebrated wine grapes from a growing number of thieves.

“The damage is enormous,” said Vincent Gros, who heads the Gros Frère et Soeur wine estate in the Cote d'Or region.

Gros has been forced to install security cameras in more remote fields due to ongoing thefts. But he feels reassures by the presence of police patrolling the region.

The big question is obviously who are the thieves?

The main suspects are surprisingly other farmers whose crops were damaged by the bad weather. This year's combination of frost, hail and blistering sunshine has had devastating effects on many vineyards.

“When the harvest is small, it is tempting to go and steal grapes. All you need are cutting shears and a bucket,” said Gros. “With 40 thieves cutting, it can go very quickly!”

Sometimes the loss is accidental. It sounds unlikely, but apparently contractors have been known to harvest the wrong tract of land.

The police mainly patrol at night, using night vision goggles to keep their presence covert until they need to pounce.

“When we spot people who have no business in the vineyards at night, we turn a spotlight on them…. and we question them,” said a patrolling officer who identified himself only as Philippe.  

“The thefts mostly happen at night… and in the early morning hours. Sometimes the thieves are many, and using harvesting machines.”

These police patrols began in Burgundy after a poor harvest in 2016 was further aggravated by a recent rise in thefts.

According to Cote d'Or police department, stealing grapes is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of €45,000.

“Grape theft is not only a crime but also directly affects the economy of the region and its wine sector already heavily affected by climate hazards,” the department stressed on its Facebook page.

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Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/
But while the map – created by – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.

Here are some of the key points.
1. Everyone hates Parisians
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
2. Staycations rule
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
3. Northerners like a drink
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
4. Poverty
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
5. Southern prejudice
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
For more maps that reflect France, head to