A winegrower potentially ruined by bureaucratic nonsense

This is wrong, and it shouldn’t happen.

I wish I could do something about it. All I can manage is this blog post.

Olivier Cousin, a natural winegrower in Anjou, makes some fabulously idiosyncratic wines that offend some, but bring others a great deal of pleasure. I love his wines.

He did something a bit mischievous. He put the initials AOC on a wine, but used them to spell out “Appellation Olivier Cousin”. For this he has fallen foul of the authorities, and has racked up legal bills, as well as facing a hefty fine. It could be enough to put him out of business.

‘Olivier is the (wild) spirit of Anjou,’ says Doug Wregg of his UK importers Les Caves de Pyrene. ‘ I can’t believe he might be ruined because of some bureaucratic nonsense.’

There is a petition in support of Olivier on the Glougeule website here.

15 comments to A winegrower potentially ruined by bureaucratic nonsense

  • Excellent post Jamie. We need to get as many people as possible to sign the petition.

  • Alex lake

    Not sure if my french is up to it, but if it were a similar situation in the UK, I’d be tempted to post a sarcastic response such as “Hanging’s too good for imbeciles such as this, who seem to think that making good wine is more important than respecting the God-given authority of the Appellation police. This guy, who seems to be intent on making fools of you (if not the whole edifice of the french wine tradition) should be driven out of town and out of business. Authority and Bureaucracy must at all times be respected above all else – zero tolerance is the only way to maintain the respect of true lovers of wine around the world.”

    Not sure that this would be helpful, though ;-)

  • Richard Morris

    The AOC is bureaucratic nonsense? Maybe. But when you sign up to a system (I’m assuming he’s AOC qualified) you agree to follow the rules. So I find the headline rather overstated. He’s ruining himself.

  • Richard the point is that Olivier Cousin has not signed up to the rules. Since 2005 his wines are vin de table.

  • Richard Morris

    Jim, a shame that wasn’t made clear. Also a shame we can’t see the offending label. If consumers are being misled I’m with the AOC.

    Amusing comment about ‘bureaucratic nonsense’ from a company which won’t publish prices on its website, by the way.

  • Doug

    Richard – the bottle labels are vin de table and perfectly legal. On the box he has put Appellation Olivier Cousin which is a play on words and hardly intended to mislead consumers or tantamount to fraud as the CIVN Interloire would have you believe. Read Sylvie Augereau’s excellent exposition of the absurdities of the regulations.

    As for your other point (which I don’t see how it follows) we do not publish prices on our web site out of respect for the many independent retailers and wholesalers that we supply and who asked us not to. What does that have to do with bureaucratic nonsense?

  • Having talked with Olivier this morning, my understanding is that the carton with Anjou Olivier Cousin appear on an internet site and wasn’t put there by Olivier. However, it did lead to a complaint from the local syndicate which in turn led to a visit from the suppression des fraudes.

    Actually they are not concerned about the box, rather a label on his Cabernet Franc – Anjou Pur Breton (Breton is the local name for Cabernet Franc). If the case goes ahead he could face a maximum fine of up to 37,500€ and two years in prison.

  • Ben C

    This reminds me of the bureaucrats who tried to sue the company that made ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’, because it was a product that said butter in the title, but did not actually contain butter so was in breach of EU rules….

  • Doug

    Thanks for elucidating that, Jim. Whatever is going on it seems to be pointless victimisation. There are countless examples of regional stupidity. Remember Andre Ostertag? In 1983 his fantastic Muenchberg Pinot Gris was denied the honour to be labelled as such nnd thus became ‘A360P’ (after the map grid reference).

  • As a grower in Bordeaux, I’ve had a few friendly visits from the DGCCRF (Répression des Fraudes) over one or two labeling irregularities – putting the words Clos and Château on the same label for example (it’s illegal), having English text but no French equivalent on the back label of a bottle that was on sale in France (not allowed, apparently), and so on.
    I asked them what sort of thing gets one into really hot water. They explained that it was all about the level of intent to defraud, which doesn’t seem unreasonable. There doesn’t appear to be much intent to defraud anyone in this case, and the courts should be able to see that. As for bank accounts being frozen, if a disputed invoice from a state-funded body remains unpaid, then your account will be frozen and/or funds taken from it at some point. This has happened to me.
    My limited experience of 12 years as a grower in France tells me that this has more to do with local politics and irritating the hell out of a few powerful people – or little people with a lot of power. In any event, I wish him well.

  • Sal

    It sounds to me that you guys have too much time on your hands and like to waste it on trivial pursuits such as this idiot. Who the hell does he think he is kidding, it is not even cleaver. Is like making a product in China and a Chinese person states it is made by US and sells it to the his customers, that is stupid too.

  • Balance

    I wonder what you would say if Gallo came up with a wine and labeled it Demeter Vineyard…

  • Gavin. The freezing of Olivier’s bank account refers to another case – a 15 year action over Olivier’s refusal to pay the cotisation to the Interprofession.

  • Thanks Jim,
    I was including the Interprofession when I said ‘a state-funded body.’ In Bordeaux, the equivalent organisation – the CIVB – sends invoice reminders and then the bailiffs. If the bailiffs get no joy, they will have your Bank account frozen, or funds taken from it. I’m quite sure that if I made a stance against the authorities in this way, I could expect a visit or three.
    I would like to point out that many friends work in some way for the CIVB and they do a great job…

  • Lee Newby

    The AOC laws are very European to a North American, we love our Common Law atmosphere and would have trouble in such a Codified system as is the nature of French other EU nations legal system (excluding the UK). The courts here would possibly scold the regulator for wasting their time and dump the case from the system and tell them to deal with it. I have tasted his wine and find them wonderfully complex, plus gotta support anyone who takes the time to employ workhorses in this highly mechanized world

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