Les 5 du Vin

5 journalistes parlent du vin


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Olivier Cousin and who owns brand ‘Anjou’

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Olivier Cousin soon after he had been ordered to pay €1 to the Fédération Viticole.

At the time it must have seemed a rather good idea to get the local fraud boys to call in on Olivier Cousin, finger his collar and to bang him to rights over various infringements of the vin de table rules, in particular the use of Anjou. A chance to put a provocative and outspoken vigneron in his place.

Whether the Fédération Viticole d’Anjou-Saumur and the INAO still think, after the conclusion of a legal action that has run for at least three years, that it was such a brilliant idea is an interesting question. True the Fédération did release an upbeat press statement following the verdict claiming victory. But the reality is surely rather different.

Although he has been ordered to pay a symbolic €1 to the Fédération and a similar sum to the INAO it is Olivier Cousin, who is the clear victor. After all the public prosecutor had asked for a fine of €5000. Clearly the judges decided that given the changes made to the Cousin labels since 2011 such a fine would be excessive and they listened instead to Eric Morain, Olivier’s impressive Parisian lawyer.

It didn’t help that the avocat, Alain Fouquet, representing the Federation and the INAO made a right pig’s ear putting their case and brought well deserved mockery on his head during the 5th March 2014 hearing.

If the Fédération effectively lost in court, it certainly lost by default in a larger forum – the world-wide web. They failed to realise that nowadays these cases can easily become a global cause célèbre and they made no attempt to put their case to a wider audience. Equally, as far as I am aware, there was no-one from the Fédération or the INAO to brief the press at any of the hearings before the Angers court.

In contrast Olivier and his supporters understood how to use the new social networks as well as the traditional media. This case has brought amazing and priceless worldwide publicity for Cousin and his wines. It has enabled him to contrast his biodynamic viticulture with the ‘industrial’ approach allegedly adopted by many AC Anjou producers as well as provoking questions over why the ingredients in wine are not listed as they are for many other drinks and foodstuffs.

Most importantly it has highlighted the debate over who owns brand ‘Anjou’, which is a debate that stretches way beyond Olivier Cousin. During the 5th March 2014 hearing Eric Morain claimed that ‘Anjou’ had been expropriated by appellation Anjou for their exclusive use and he challenged their right to this monopoly.

I suspect that French senator, Christian Béchu, who used to be the president of the Conseil Général de Maine-et-Loire and who is now the Maire of Angers, would agree with Morain as he has been keen to promote the idea of Produit d’Anjou’ for a number of locally made products in the face of opposition from the Fédération Viticole.

Béchu: “Je ne vois pas en quoi notre marque pourrait concurrencer l’AOC Anjou, réagit Christophe Béchu qui continue le dialogue avec les vignerons. Notre marque locale aura une résonance locale. L’idée est avant tout de favoriser les emplois locaux.” (9th January 2013)

The debate has already been running a number of years:

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Utilisation du mot Anjou : différent entre vignerons et Conseil Général, bientôt le tribunal ?
Les vignerons tiennent à leurs appellations d’Origines Contrôlées Anjou et protègent leur « marque » comme la prunelle de leurs yeux. Anjou Cola par exemple ne les fait pas rire du tout. Viticulture et Conseil Général ont une vision de la notion de marque. Le tribunal devra-t-il trancher ?
http://www.saumur-kiosque.com/infos_article.php?id_actu=13860

Polémique. La marque « Produit d’Anjou » se heurte au veto des vignerons
‘Le conseil général, qui souhaite étendre sa marque « Produit d’Anjou » aux métiers de bouche ainsi qu’aux boissons, est en discussion tendue avec la fédération viticole du Maine-et-Loire qui craint une concurrence avec l’AOC « Anjou ». Un bras de fer « musclé » s’est engagé.’

La première initiative a été lancée en novembre 2011, en s’appuyant sur l’expérience menée par des horticulteurs angevins.
http://www.ouest-france.fr/polemique-la-marque-produit-danjou-se-heurte-au-veto-des-vignerons-346534

The conflict may well end up in court. Cousin’s symbolic single euro payment to the Fédération could certainly indicate that the judges are not very sympathetic their claim to an exclusive right to brand ‘Anjou’.

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Contrôles et interdictions dans le vin: quelle efficacité ?

C’est en relisant le texte d’une interdiction promulguée le 31 juillet… 1395 que je me suis mis a cogiter sur l’efficacité relative des différents types de contrôle des entreprises privées que sont les producteurs de vin.

Evidemment la notion d’entreprise privée demanderait à être bien définie. Par exemple, cette notion n’avait pas le même sens à la fin du 14ème siècle que de nos jours. Je ne parle évidemment pas des expériences de gouvernance de la production par des Etats qui tentaient d’abolir la notion de propriété et d’entreprise individuelle. On se souvient des catastrophes humaines et qualitatives que cette approche a provoquées dans le pays de l’ancien bloc soviétique. Mais, malgré ces différences de contexte considérables, je crois qu’il est quand même intéressant de regarder ce qui se passe sur le moyen et long terme quand une instance, qu’elle soit politique ou économique, tente d’imposer ses choix.

Un des cas les plus radicaux dans le domaine du vin, même si nous manquons de témoignages quant à l’efficacité du décret en question, fut le décret de l’Empereur romain Domitien qui ordonnait d’arracher toutes les vignes de Gaule. En réalité, il semblerait que cela était destiné surtout aux vignes plantées en plaine et qui faisaient concurrence au blé, bien plus utile que le vin. Mais c’était tout de même assez sévère. Il a fallu attendre 200 ans  pour qu’un de ses successeurs, Probus, redonne espoir aux vignerons gaulois !

Des cas récents dans le vignoble français incitent aussi à cette réflexion, dans un registre mineur bien évidemment. Je parle de la tentative en cours par l’INAO de faire condamner au tribunal le vigneron Olivier Cousin pour un usage supposé illégitime d’un nom de région (Anjou), mais aussi à la récente condamnation à une amende symbolique d’un autre vigneron, Emmanuel Giboulot, qui a refusé d’acheter, et donc d’appliquer, un produit agréé "bio" pour se prémunir contre la cicadelle, vecteur d’une maladie de la vigne. Ces cas sont différents, bien entendu, mais ont un point essentiel en commun : le refus d’obéir à une injonction qui invoque la loi du pays, ou de l’instance qui gouverne leur domaine de production.

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Philippe II, Duc de Bourgogne

Retournons à l’édit mentionné au début de ce texte, qui émanait du Duc de Bourgogne, Philippe le Hardi, et qui frappait d’interdiction le cépage Gamay.  Je vais vous la fournir presque en entier (d’après les versions de Rossignol, 1854 et Vermorel, 1902) :

(NB, l’orthographe variable et étrange n’est pas le fait d’un anglais ignare, mais correspond aux versions citées du texte originel. N’oublions pas que nous sommes au 14ème siècle) 

"un très-mauvaiz et très-desloyaulx plant nomméz Gaamez, duquel mauvaiz plan vient très-grant habondonce de vins… Et lequel vin de Gaamez est de tel nature qu’il est moult nuysible a creature humaine, mesmement que plusieurs, qui au temps passé en ont usé, en ont esté infestés de griesz maladies… car le dit vin qui est yssuz du dit plant, de sa dite nature, est plein de très-grant et horrible amertume… Pourquoi nous… vous mandons… sollempnellement à touz cilz qui ont les diz plans de vigne des diz Gaamez, que yceulx coppent ou fassent copper en quelque part qu’ilz soient en nostre dit pais dedens cing mois".

(Je crois que je vais retenir l’expression suivante pour une prochaine critique d’un vin que je trouverai vraiment mauvais : "moult nuysible a creature humaine").

 

Gamay par Vermorel

une grappe de gamay, telle que le livre de Viala et Vermorel la montre

 

En tout cas, les gens du Beaujolais et d’ailleurs apprécieront l’avis de Philippe le Hardi. Il ignorait certainement que le Gamay est un des enfants naturels du pinot noir et, donc, par voie de conséquence, du très prolifique gourais (il faut dire que les enfants "naturels" étaient chose courante à l’époque). Quoi qu’il en soit, il est heureux que  l’internet n’ait pas existé pas à l’époque, car on imagine le tollé ! Combien de signataires de pétitions pour sauver le soldat Gaamez ?

Plus sérieusement, quel a été le résultat de ce décret plutôt sévère ? Probablement une migration du Gamay vers le Sud et les collines du Mâconnais et du voisin Beaujolais, même si quelques poches subsistent en Côte d’Or où le Gamay est admis, à la hauteur d’un tiers au maximum, dans le Bourgogne d’assemblage nommé Passetoutgrains. Nous voyons là une premier tentative, du moins en France, d’appliquer le principe qui deviendra, bien plus tard, un des fondements d’une appellation contrôlée de vin : un territoire associé à des variétés de vigne en particulier, à l’exclusion d’autres.

tenuta-san-guido-sassicaia-bolgheri-tuscany-italy-10119910

 

Ce principe, défendu avec ardeur par les tenants du système d’appellation contrôlée (et protégée), a donné lieu à des nombreux conflits et parfois, plus tard, à des modifications du dit système lui-même. Je pense au cas de la Toscane, en Italie où l’apparition, à partir des années 1970, de vins de très haute qualité dans le région côtière autour de Bolgheri (à l’époque dénuée de toute appellation pour le vin), a enclenché un processus qui a entraîné une révision radicale de la structure des appellations dans ce pays. Ce changement de cap a également été provoqué par les absurdités des anciennes règles qui gouvernaient l’appellation Chianti et qui ont poussé certains des meilleurs producteurs à sortir de cette dénomination afin de faire de meilleurs vins rouges. Dans ces cas, les interdictions ont été favorables à la qualité, à moyen terme, mais bien malgré elles. On pourrait parler d’une "bonne contre-productivité". Le pionnier de ce mouvement fut la Tenuta San Guido, propriété de la famille Inchisa della Rocchetta et leur vin Sassicaia. Au début simple Vino di Tavola, ce vin de la région de Bolgheri a maintenant sa propre DOC, Bolgheri Sassicaia.

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Le cas du Domaine de Trévallon en France est un peu similaire mais, étant un cas unique dans sa région, ce domaine n’a pas réussi à faire plier le système des appellations contrôlées; ni à lui faire rendre raison de ses absurdités, généralement commandées par un soi-disant intérêt commun, autrement dit le nivellement par le bas. Entre 1993 et 1994, le vin du Domaine de Trévallon, déjà mondialement connu, a du troquer son modeste label de Coteaux d’Aix en Provence – Les Baux pour celui, encore plus modeste, de Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhône. Pourquoi? Parce que l’INAO a cédé à la pression d’autres producteurs des Baux qui voulaient imposer un maximum de 25% de cabernet sauvignon dans les vins de l’appellation, alors que Trévallon en avait le double et refusait de l’arracher. Mais cela n’a pas nuit à son image, ni à ses ventes, et il continue à se vendre bien plus cher que les autres vins des Baux, car il est tout simplement meilleur.

On voit que tout système produit des contre-courants et des formes de rébellion. C’est quasiment comme une loi de la physique. Mais est-ce que cela veut dire que toute forme de rébellion ou de résistance à une force dominante est défendable ? Un anarchiste dirait forcément "oui" à cette question. Je pense qu’il faut regarder au cas par cas.

Pour aider, je propose de se poser la question suivante: est-ce que la cause défendue risque d’être bénéfique pour les consommateurs, puis, éventuellement, pour un ensemble significatif de producteurs autour ou dans une situation similaire (à défaut de tous)?

Enfin, regardons quelles sont les options pour les opposants à un système généralement bien plus fort et mieux armé qu’eux ? Il y en a trois : confrontation, contournement ou capitulation. La confrontation peut coûter cher: demandez à un opposant russe ou chinois. Le contournement serait une sorte de Wu-Wei, cher aux taoistes. La capitulation n’est probablement pas une option sérieuse pour quelqu’un qui est convaincu de son bon droit et assez déterminé. On le voit par les exemples cités ci-dessus : il vaut mieux adopter le contournement dans bien des cas. Dürrbach, de Trévallon, n’a aucun mal à placer ses vins, hors appellation contrôlée, et à des prix deux ou trois fois au-dessus de ceux qui sont restés dans l’appellation Baux. En Italie, Sassicaia, avec ses collègues de la Costa Toscana (Ornellaia,  Ornellaia, Guado al Tasso, Solaia, Masseto etc) a réussi à faire bouger les lignes d’une structure d’appellations rétrograde, inadaptée à la réalité.

Sujet à méditer pour d’autres cas, je pense.

 David Cobbold

 

 


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Some reflections on the Olivier Cousin case

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Olivier Cousin in court with his lawyer, Eric Morain

On Wednesday 5th March Le Tribunal Correctionnel of Angers spent over two and half hours on the Olivier Cousin false labelling case.

In one sense it was a monumental waste of court time. 2802 bottles of vin de table were labelled Anjou Pur Breton along with a number of other labelling infractions including not using the pregnant woman sign and a mention of vin biodynamic some six months before it was permitted on a label.

No one disputes that the wine came from Olivier Cousin’s 4.5 hectares of vines in Martigné-Briand. Nor is there any question that they contained Pur Breton – 100% Cabernet Franc. Although he is accused of tricking consumers by putting Anjou, it is very likely that most purchasers of the Anjou Pur Breton knew precisely what they were buying.

On the other hand the INAO and the Federation Viticole d’Anjou-Saumur cannot afford to lose this case or have Olivier Cousin let off without a fine. This would threaten their monopoly of the use of Anjou and threaten to throw open the new vin de France category where grape variety can be mentioned but not where the wine comes from. Eric Morain, Olivier’s lawyer, said that the word ‘Anjou’ had been ‘stolen’ for the exclusive use of AC wines.

The severely restricted information on vin de France wines runs counter to the trend to give consumers information on foodstuffs from milk to prepared meals. A trend provoked, at least in part, by mad cow disease and more recently by passing off horse meat as beef.

Wine in general lags behind in the amount of information given to the consumer. The decision by UK supermarket company Sainbury’s to put the number of calories in a 125ml glass of wine on their own label wines provoked hysteria in some vinous quarters. As did many years ago the requirement by the US to put whether a wine contains sulphides.

When I spoke to Olivier a couple of days ago he was scathing about Alain Fouquet, the lawyer representing the INAO and the Fédération Viticole d’Anjou-Saumur, and the prosecutor and their failure to recognise that there are now two viticultures – one ‘industrial’ and one paysan – ‘artisanal’.

He was ‘deçu’ by the court procedure. Fouquet was ‘null’. Although I would agree that Alain Fouquet’s court performance was decidedly poor, I can well see why neither Christophe Valissant nor Fouquet would want to accept the ‘two viticultures’ proposition, which would only complicate their brief. They would also regard the rules applying to everyone irrespective of whether they make ‘industrial’ or ‘artisanal’ wine.

Just like ‘natural’ wine, there is no agreed definition, as far as I know, of ‘industrial’ or ‘paysan’ wine. Olivier offered some pointers – the use of insecticides and weed killers, harvesting by machine and the use of chaptalisation. You certainly cannot say that only those producers who chose to sell their wine under the vin de France label are paysan ie makers of ‘true’ wine and all who use sell under AC are ‘industrial. For instance there are plenty of producers of Anjou, who I certainly would not consider for a moment that they make ‘industrial’ wine. For instance all the Anjou and other Loire producers who were present at the Renaissance tasting in Angers could not be termed ‘industrial’ producers.

Olivier was certainly spot on over the lamentable performance of Alain Fouquet, the avocat representing the INAO and the Fédération Viticole de Anjou-Saumur. For someone, who had pleaded on 2nd October 2013 for the case to be delayed, and been given an additional five months to master his brief he appeared remarkably ill informed. Fouquet went on at some length about Cousin exporting to China. In fact he doesn’t export to China but Japan. Olivier had already told the court this and doubtless it was in the papers submitted to the court.

Fouquet also made play of Olivier’s wines being listed by Noma, voted the best restaurant in the world and which had a well publicised bout of food poisoning in 2013 but he placed the restaurant in the United States and not Denmark.

Not surprisingly Alain Fouquet’s performance drew loud guffaws from Olivier’s supporters at the back of the court. For someone defending d’origine controlée geography would appear not to be one of his strongest suits!

“Whatever happens I have won,” Olivier told me.  “This case has raised the issues and highlighted the two types of viticulture we now have.”

He has also won huge amount virtually free publicity around the wine world. Little wonder that the domaine’s best turnover ever was in 2012 a year, incidentally, when there was no mention of Anjou on the labels. If the prosecution gets its way and Cousin is fined 5000€ plus between 10-20 centimes for each wrongly labelled bottle, it will be a bargain for the coverage his case has received – not forgetting the two barrels of wine provided for the picnickers!

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Leaving the court on horseback down the court steps

Scott 35 in mist above Chavignol


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Judgment days come along like buses and bananas

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Explanatory sign for the Quarts de Chaume close to the Layon and at the southern end of the AC. Terraces of the Domaine des Baumards to left, while on right some terraces of Château la Varière.

Recently court appearances and judgments have resembled a long awaited bus which eventually turns up with another two in close attendance  – like a bunch of bananas!

 Soon after Emmanuel Giboulot had appeared in court in Dijon on Monday, the Conseil d’Etat issued their much awaited judgment on Domaine des Baumard’s legal challenge to the creation of Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru and its cahier des charges. The Baumard’s lost on all counts.

(To see the judgment go to ArianeWeb on the Conseil d’Etat site and type in 356103 – the number of the document – http://www.conseil-etat.fr/fr/base-de-jurisprudence/)

The Conseil ruled that it was perfectly legal for Quarts de Chaume to be made a grand cru and that there was no need for the INAO to have consulted the other Loire appellations before this was done. The Conseil gave short shrift to the practice of cryoselection and to the objection that the maximum yield in the Quarts de Chaume could only be achieved by the use of cryoselection. The judgment notes that the maximum permitted yield should not be seen as a threshold to aim for but a true maximum rarely attained, especially for a high quality sweet wine.

They also overruled objections to Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume.

I’m delighted by this judgment and hope that producers can now concentrate on further enhancing the reputation of the Quarts de Chaume.

This is the fourth time that Domaine des Baumard has taken a legal challenge regarding an appellation to the Conseil d’Etat. To date their record is played four – won two, lost two, so a score draw. They successfully challenged two earlier décrets involving Chaume: one passed in 2003 was annulled in 2005 by the Conseil d’Etat then one passed in 2007 and annulled in 2009.

The other appeal to the Conseil was over being denied the appellation by the INAO for the 2007 vintage for certain parcels in Quarts de Chaume and Savennières as the vines were too widely spaced. The appeal was rejected and the INAO’s action upheld.

I’ll leave others to decide whether the Baumards are ahead on points or not.

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Olivier Cousin with one of his horses: October 2nd 2013@Angers

Tomorrow Olivier Cousin will return to court in Angers for the postponed hearing of the now celebrated Anjou Pur Breton case. Again there will a picnic in front of the court building from 12.30pm Olivier Cousin will there with his horses and a barrel or two of red – pur Breton presumably.

Will the prosecution follow the example set in the case of Emmanuel Giboulot and ask for a minimal fine or press for a more substantial punishment? I assume that as in the case of Giboulot that the court will hear arguments from both sides then retire to return a verdict in April?

Should both Emmanuel Giboulot and Olivier Cousin be hit with minimal fines will they pay it or refuse on principle to pay?

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Always remain discreet….


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Looking ahead into 2014

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Millésime Bio 2012: Pierre Clavel demonstrating a new acoustic approach to assessing wine.

With us already accelerating into 2014 – seven days in already – I think I can still just about get away with a look ahead into the year’s events and share a few hopes.

I’ll start with the hope that wine producers in the Loire as well as Burgundy and other parts of northern France will be treated more kindly by the elements than they were in 2012 and 2013. Although it would be good to have a high quality vintage, it is crucial that the Loire has a decent sized crop this year. After two very short harvests, I have no doubt that another very small crop may well drive a significant number of producers out of business.

At the end of October Jacky Blot (Bourgueil and Montlouis) told me that due to these two very small harvests he is down 250,000 bottles. Although I’m confident that he can survive such as financial shock, this substantial shortfall will be a brake on investment. For example, fewer posts and less wiring will be replaced in his vineyards.

Unfortunately years ending in 4 have rarely proved to be great vintages in the Loire. More often they have been of below average quality. 1964 was the last really good vintage, being particularly special and now legendary in Chinon. Since then 1974, 1984 and 1994 were far from memorable, although 2004 was decent it was overshadowed by the better and more attractive 2003, 2005 and 2006. There have been, however, now some nice surprises from 2004.

Going back from 1964, 54 is described in the list of Chinon vintages from 1889 to 2020, kindly provided by Pierre Couly as ‘année médiocre’, 44 as ‘vin moyen’, while 1934 was a ‘très bonne recolte – quantité, qualité, (http://jimsloire.blogspot.co.uk/p/chinon-vintages-1889-2002-details-from.html). I can confirm that 1934 was a fine vintage as this was the year that opened the fascinating tasting of Chinons with the still very drinkable René Couly (http://jimsloire.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/1934-rene-couly-presque-prete-boire.html). Unfortunately 1924 is a typical 4 described in Chinon as a ‘mauvaise année, petit vin’ – however, it was good in Vouvray. 1914 and 1904 are good years  – ‘bon vin de bouteille’ but with 1894 returning to type – ‘vin ordinaire’.

Although history suggests that 2014 will not be special, let’s hope that 2014 turns out to be the first excellent 4 vintage for 50 years!

At the end of January I will be in Montpellier for Millésime Bio, which is always a pleasure. This year I will have the full three days at this organic wine fair unlike 2013 when I could only manage one. I like the simple format with everyone having the same sized table, so none of the bling you find at fairs like Vinexpo.

From Montpellier it is straight to Angers for the tastings that precede the 28th edition of the Salon des Vins de Loire opens on 3rd February. I will be going to the Renaissance tasting at the Greniers St Jean on the Saturday and then to La Dive Bouteille on the Sunday, which this year will be held at the Ackerman cellars in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent. The previous venue was in the freezing caves of Château de Brézé, so the 2014 edition should see a considerable reduction in the cases of hypothermia.

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Marc was a precocious child!

The Salon des Vins de Loire will see all members of Les 5 du Vin together for the first time since our memorable weekend in Bourgueil in early June 2012. This year Marc Vanhellemont is vying to become the four member of our quintet to win the Wine Blog Trophy (http://www.wineblogtrophy.com/). A relatively late entrant Marc is currently in third place in the popular vote with his post on Cabernet Franc. (http://www.wineblogtrophy.com/Users/Bloggers-2013)

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Olivier Cousin with his horses in front of the Tribunal d’Angers October 2013.

Early March will see Olivier Cousin up before the beak in Angers on 5th. Whether this absurd long-running affair will come to a conclusion that day is anyone’s guess. It will surely once again create a considerable stir.  Last weekend France Inter broadcast an excellent programme on Olivier Cousin:  http://www.franceinter.fr/emission-interception-le-vin-qui-ne-peut-pas-dire-son-nom

I’m not a great fan of large wine fairs, so won’t be going to Prowein in late March, although it is the one large fair that I would consider attending. Dusseldorf, however, is less attractive at anytime of the year than the Loire even in March. I expect Prowein will once again a record number of visitors edging it ever closer to overtaking VinExpo (Bordeaux) as the world’s most important wine fair.

I will, however, be at the Real Wine Fair in London on 13th and 14th April. This is the first of the two annual ‘natural’ wine fairs held in London. The second – RAW – will be on 18th and 19th May. Although ‘natural’ wine continues to stir debate and has no formal definition, I’m sure these two fairs will again attract a substantial number of highly enthusiastic wine drinkers. The first day of each fair is open to the public, while the second days are reserved for the trade.

In June I’m contemplating a charitable stroll on une petite reine down the length of the Loire – more details shortly.

For the 2014 Bourgueillothérapie in September at the Café de la Promenade (Bourgueil), I should have an exhibition of Loire photos with the profits going to this year’s chosen charity.

By this time I hope we will be in the middle of a fine Loire vintage!

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The trials of our Cousin – a work in progress by Georges Feydeau

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Olivier Cousin

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Serving Pur Breton

Last Wednesday 2nd October many in the wine world both in France and outside expected the long running case against Olivier Cousin to come to a conclusion. This hearing was due for the afternoon.

Around 14.30 with perhaps 50 of Cousin’s supporters crowded into the back of the court, Alain Fouquet, the barrister for the INAO, pleaded for a delay. As a civil party in this case ‘they hadn’t had time to prepare their case’.  Fouquet spoke of the importance of this case. Searching for the moral high ground He spoke of the significance of the terroir and the human influence – ‘les hommes et le terroir’.

Although Eric Morain, Cousin’s Parisian lawyer, objected strongly and spoke eloquently against the possibility of delaying this case that had already taken two years to come to court, the judges, after retiring to consider the INAO’s request, agreed that the hearing should be pushed back to 5th March 2014 at 14.00 hours.

Was this a delaying tactic by the INAO concerned that the proceedings against Cousin have become a cause célèbre attracting considerable attention in the press and on the internet? Wednesday’s court hearing was front-page news in the regional Courrier de l’Ouest (2nd October) and Libération ran an article the day before. On the net the influential Jancis Robinson MW ran a news item that morning on her site.

The plea for a delay by the INAO widens the focus from Anjou onto the appellation system itself. It was a letter from the Fédération Viticole de l’Anjou-Saumur, which provoked the visit to Cousin’s domaine by the Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) in 2011. The Fédération’s complaint then was over the use of Anjou Olivier Cousin on his wine cases. However, this did not worry the DGCCRF agents as this was printed on the box not on the label – a nice Feydeau touch here! Instead they objected to ‘Anjou Pur Breton’ on the labels of Cousin’s vin de table – Cabernet Franc from the 2009 vintage. Under the vin de table rules there could be no mention of which part of France the wine came from, the vintage nor the grape variety. Under the 2009 reform, which created Vin de France, the grape variety and vintage can be mentioned on the label but still not where it was made.

In all 2802 bottles carried the offending label. There is no doubt that Cousin broke the rules that ought to have warranted a small fine. Instead Cousin faces a possible two years in prison and a fine of up to 37,000€. The case documents now well over a foot high – a small mountain in formation! The case and the threatened punishment is out of all proportion to the offence. Not to mention the amount of public money that is being spent on this.

It is very difficult to argue that Cousin benefitted financially from using ‘Anjou’ on his labels. Unfortunately Anjou is not one of France’s most prestigious appellations. The majority of Cousin’s wines are exported and I suspect that people buy his wines because they are made by him.  Certainly by now Olivier Cousin is a much stronger brand than Anjou.

Cousin and Morain have also staked out the moral high ground emphasizing Cousin’s biodynamic viticulture and natural winemaking and contrasting this with 134 chemical products allowed in AOC winemaking (Courrier de l’Ouest: 3.10.13).

Inevitably views have become polarized. There is a tendency for some in the natural wine camp to dismiss all ‘non-natural’ wines as industrial concoctions, while there are those from the other side who dismiss natural wines as being faulty. Neither position stands up to any scrutiny.

There are some excellent ‘natural’ wines. Equally there are some terrible ‘natural’ wines. Also there are many producers not in the natural camp that farm responsibly and make excellent wines, without using the arsenal of products available to them. See Vincent Pousson’s excellent post on his blog of 3rd October. http://ideesliquidesetsolides.blogspot.fr/2013/10/nul-nest-cense-ignorer-la-loire.html

Although as the Courrier de l’Ouest suggests the case is likely be decided by the letter of the law, the INAO has widened the debate and has thus become the major issue. Is the organization still fit for purpose?

Why are an increasing number of high quality producers considering opting out of the AOP system and moving to Vin de France? I saw Noël Pinguet (formerly of Domaine Huet in Vouvray) a fortnight ago. He said that he had discussed the possibility of withdrawing from AC Vouvray with Anthony Hwang and that Anthony had been sympathetic to the idea. In Muscadet last week Marie Luneau-Chartier explained that they were ditching the traditional Muscadet bottle for their single vineyard wines because of Muscadet’s poor reputation with the consumer, who is convinced that all Muscadet should be cheap to drink as an aperitif and shellfish. The Luneaus find it impossible to get consumers to take the Muscadet Crus Communaux seriously unless they opt for a different shaped bottle – Burgundy for example.

Why is it that it is often the high quality and internationally renowned producers have trouble with the agrément?

Why are there so many petty rules about permitted grape varieties, which all too often are based not on any tradition but on dogma and local politics? Why, for instance, are appellations like the Côtes d’Auvergne, Coteaux du Giennois and Châteaumeillant saddled with the requirement that their Pinot Noir be blended with Gamay?

If terroir is so important what has the INAO done to reduce the wholesale use of weed killers in the AOP vineyards? If the INAO has taken on the exclusive right to use geographic names such as Anjou for wines it surely has a duty of care to look after the terroir properly so that it can be passed onto future generations in a fit state.

If the INAO and the Fédération Viticole were hoping that a six-month delay would cause the media and the internet to lose interest in the case, I suspect that this will be a forlorn hope. Cousin says they will organise a natural wine fair on Angers on Wednesday 5th March 2014  – quite probably at the Greniers de Saint Jean, as early March could be too chilly to hold a second picnic in front of the Palais de Justice.

We have already booked our hotel room in Angers for 5th March.

Jim Budd

Image

Crowd 3rd October

ImageJean-Pierre Robinot

LaRablaise

AOP – Appellation d’Origine Polluée
– blitzed vines in Touraine demonstrating the importance of terroir and biodiversity!

 

 

jimbuddv


2 Commentaires

What has the 1855 group got that Olivier Cousin hasn’t?

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Olivier Cousin in London May 2011

On October 2nd Anjou vigneron, Olivier Cousin, will be before a court in Angers facing a case of fraud and bringing the appellation contrôlée system into disrepute. His crime? Putting ‘Anjou Pur Breton’ on a label for a vin de table. See here and here. Apparently Cousin could face a maximum fine of 37,500 euros and two years in prison.

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The offending label.

Contrast the threat to Cousin with the apparent carte blanche given to 1855 and their associated companies ChateauOnline and Cave Privée to fleece a number of their customers, especially those who order Bordeaux en primeur as well ignoring many court judgments against them.

Here is just the latest account from one of the hundreds of clients ripped off by the companies run by Emeric Sauty de Chalon and Fabien Hyon.

La Lettre de mon Jardin n°96 – juil 13

Bruno G. , un client Parisien nous communique:
"Pour info: je viens d’obtenir un jugement en ma faveur contre Chateau on Line qui ne m’avait pas livré mes Primeurs 2009.

Je les ai assignés directement à la juridiction de proximité du 9éme Arrdt de Paris ( leur SS), et le jour ou nous sommes passés il y avait 5 recours contre eux mais ils n’avaient pas daigné se déplacer.

Ils ont été condamnés à ce que j’avais demandé, à savoir le remboursement de la valeur actualisée des vins commandés majorée des intérêts de retard, plus les frais de justice.

J’ai fait délivrer par huissier la signification exécutoire du jugement et une saisie arrêt sur leur compte en banque qui est revenue impayée, faute de provision . Ils n’ont manifesté aucune réaction !

Je viens donc de lancer un commandement de payer par huissier et j’irai, bien entendu jusqu’à la cessation de paiement si nécessaire, d’autant plus qu’ils continuent à faire de la pub pour la campagne des Primeurs 2012. C’est une véritable « escroquerie en bande organisée », pour reprendre une expression à la mode. ?

Je viens également de les relancer, pour la livraison des Primeurs 2010 que j’avais également commandés, mais en vain. Je les assignerai de nouveau après les vacances judiciaires

Par contre je suis surpris que la Direction de la Concurrence et des Prix n’ait pas été saisie par les négociants de la place bordelaise !".

Si vous êtes dans son cas, il peut être intéressant de vous mettre en rapport avec cette personne victime d’agissements frauduleux…Donnez nous toute information, nous transmettrons.

Rappelons que "Chateau on line" appartient à la Sté 1855, elle aussi poursuivie par de nombreux clients non livrés, et qui a délocalisé cette année ses offres de Primeurs 2012 sur cette filiale…. Jolie ruse!

Pourquoi cette différence de traitement dans un État de droit?

http://jimsloire.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/olivier-cousin-update-on-anjou-pur.html

http://jimsloire.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/olivier-cousin-1855-and-dgccrf-compare.html

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