Loire producer faces jail for protest labels

  • Monday 10 October 2011

A small Loire producer of natural wines faces two years in jail or a hefty fine for labelling his wines wrongly.

Olivier Cousin

Olivier Cousin, who farms 10ha biodynamically at Domaine Cousin-Leduc in the Layon Valley, stopped labelling his wines as AOC in 2005 and opted instead for vin de table.

He did this in protest, he said, at the laxity of the appellation controlée regulations – particularly when in 2003 authorities allowed producers to acidify as well as chaptalize.

He then started  labelling his Cabernet Franc ‘Anjou Pur Breton’.

Breton is the local name for Cabernet Franc, but the fraud squad (DGCCRF - Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes) visited him in March 2011, subsequently charging him with with mislabelling and bringing the appellation into disrepute, an offence which carries a €37,500 fine or up to two years in prison.

The  case is further complicated by Cousin's wine boxes continuing to bear the initials AOC - a pun on the initials Anjou Olivier Cousin –  which he claims was done by his distributors and was nothing to do with him. Nevertheless, he told Decanter.com, it was this that started the whole affair.

The prosecutor in Angers must now decide if the case should go ahead.

Cousin told Decanter.com, ‘I stopped because the AOC is for industrial wines as the rules permit everything: weedkillers, huge yields, additives etc.

‘But I consider that I still make wine from Anjou. I do a lot to promote the wines of Anjou but under the vin de table rules I'm not allowed to put the grape variety, where the grapes were grown nor the vintage.

‘I cultivate the vines of my grandfather in exactly the same way as I did before [when they were AOC] and make them in exactly the same way.’

Cousin has also just a lost a case which has been running for 15 years in which he argued that he should not be obliged to pay membership fees for the local generic trade association because he did not agree with its aims. According to reports his bank accounts have been frozen.

Cousin's case has been taken up by his importers Les Caves de Pyrene.

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