You would not normally expect the police to spend their time protecting bunches of fruit. But at the end of this year’s harvest in Champagne in northern France – a crucial time for wine producers – that is exactly what is happening.
Wine makers there say 2012 could be a vintage year for champagne and that means the price of grapes has gone up, making them attractive for thieves.
Champagnes use the same three types of grape – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – destined to go into making a product that’s always in demand.
This year, wet weather has caused vineyards to produce fewer grapes, pushing up their price to around $8 per kg.
Police have been patrolling the vines around the clock – on horseback by day, and using 4WD vehicles and infrared goggles at night.
Nobody has been prosecuted, but the thefts have stopped.
Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba reports from a vineyard near Epernay.