The defamation lawsuit brought by Hubert de Boüard of Chateau Angélus against the author and publisher of Vino Business was held in the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Paris last week.
Vino Business came out in 2014,written by author and journalist Isabelle Saporta and the publisher was Albin Michel.
It deals extensively with the fallout from the St-Emilion 2012 classification and suggests that de Boüard had undue influence over the process of setting up the rules that governed the ranking.
De Boüard is being represented by Maitre Jean-Yves Dupeaux and the legal firm Lussan, and is asking for €60,000 in damages, specifically citing 11 separate passages within the book.
Saporta and Albin Michel are being represented by Christophe Bigot, who is arguing that Saporta spent 18 months researching the book, interviewing de Boüard on several occasions throughout, and that her claims can be substantiated.
‘He knew that I was an investigative journalist, and I gave him every right to reply,’ Saporta told decanter.com when the case against her was first filed. At the time, a spokesperson for de Boüard said that he did not want to make direct comments to the media. ‘The aim is not to draw any further attention. He simply wants certain facts to be acknowledged.’
Last Thursday Saporta told the court that the research process was, ‘long and difficult. The world of the grands crus is extremely closed’.
Two specific events are at the heart of the question of whether Hubert de Boüard had an undue influence over the classification – and therefore can not claim to be a victim of defamation.
These are whether he was present at a meeting at the National Institute of Appellations (INAO) to establish the rules of the classification, held on May 23 2011, and whether he was present during various rounds of voting on the classification at the INAO during the year leading up to the publication of the new classification in September 2012.
The witnesses for de Boüard included the president of the Bordeaux Wine Bureau, the president of national committee for AOC wines, and a former director of the International Organisation of Wine and Vine who was a key member of the INAO commission that oversaw the classification.
Three witnesses were called for Saporta – two owners of estates that lost their ranking in 2012 and a French journalist who used to work for the Chamber of Agriculture.
The hearing lasted seven hours last Thursday June 9th and a ruling is expected on September 22, 2016.