Since I posted rather speedily on Sunday night it's become clear that the Olivier Cousin case is quite a bit more complicated than it first appeared.
The trigger might have been the cheeky description of his wine as an AOC (Anjou Olivier Cousin) for which he says his distributors are responsible, but there's history, as they say. As Jim Budd explains on decanter.com today Cousin has chosen not to label his wines AOC since 2005 because he rejects the methods by which they are produced. But he still in their view, owes them money as a past member of the association, a case they've successfully prosecuted in the courts. Cousin hasn't paid and his bank account has been frozen.
More seriously - and ludicrously - they're after him for labelling his Cabernet Franc ‘Anjou Pur Breton’, the local name for Cabernet Franc. This has incurred the wrath of the DGCCRF - Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes - which has charged him with bringing the appellation into dispute. If convicted he could face a fine of €37,500 or up to two years in prison. Apparently the prosecutor is now deciding whether to pursue the case.
I'm not totally surprised to hear of this saga. When I asked if the CIVL (the body that represents Loire producers) could arrange some producer visits this time last year they were enthusiastic until they saw my suggested list which included a number of natural winemakers (understandable in the Loire). They then came back and said they were very sorry but it was impossible because all the producers concerned - all of them - were busy harvesting. (I went anyway and went round a number of producers with Jim Budd). I had no such problems with the CIVB who arranged a comparable set of visits in Burgundy a couple of weeks later or the CIVA in Alsace earlier this summer who arranged for me to see a number of biodynamic winemakers along with more conventional ones.
I can't think why the people who run the Anjou AOC would want to drive a small producer out of business. I'm sure Cousin is a pain in the butt but there must be more imaginative ways to deal with cases like this which will only grow in number as more winemakers reject the rigid AOC system but still feel they have a right to talk about the place where their wines are made. Frankly the authorities make themselves look ridiculous.
If you haven't already done so do leave a comment on Sylvie Augereau's site Glougueule which now carries over 500 messages of support for Cousin.