A demonstration by around 8,000 Languedoc-Roussillon winegrowers in the centre of Montpellier degenerated into a near-riot on Wednesday.

The growers were protesting at a €70m state aid package for France's wine sector, which they say is inadequate.

Protesters threw bottles, burning dustbins and fire-crackers and charged a police cordon outside the main state building in Montpellier where a delegation representing growers' associations was being received.

Riot police and gendarmes responded with tear gas and a counter-charge.

Growers accuse supermarket chains as being behind the fall in wine prices and also perceive they are victims of over-production of Bordeaux AOCs.

One union official said: "We have been very diligent from the outset in heeding calls to cut back on production and we don't want to pay for those (in the industry) who are not making any effort at all. If this demonstration got out of hand it's the government's fault."