Disparaging Bordeaux wines costs an anti-agrochemical association €125,000

Monday March 01 2021 by Vitisphere

The ruling by the civil chamber states that “the smear campaign has been detrimental to the Bordeaux wine region, which is in the process of changing its practices”.The ruling by the civil chamber states that “the smear campaign has been detrimental to the Bordeaux wine region, which is in the process of changing its practices”. - Photo credit : Alexandre Abellan (Vitisphere)

On 25 February, the civil division of the Libourne court of justice condemned the “Alerte Aux Toxiques” (AAT) association and its spokesperson, Valérie Murat, to 125,000 euros for disparaging Bordeaux wines. The hard-hitting and immediately enforceable ruling sanctions AAT's messages on 15 September 2020, which denounced the occurrence of 28 plant protection residues in 22 wines, mainly Bordeaux certified High Environmental Value (HVE). “The written statements were widely distributed and accompanied by slogans that lacked restraint. They unequivocally constitute wrongful defamation”, says the civil chamber ruling accessed by Vitisphere.

This is not a victory, it is a major victory”, said Jean-Philippe Magret, defence counsel for the Bordeaux wine marketing board CIVB, which filed a complaint on 21 October 2020 and was followed by 25 other plaintiffs. The CIVB sued for €100,000 in damages to fund a media plan highlighting its environmental efforts and is receiving this amount as compensation for the civil offence. However, for former President of the Bar Jean-Philippe Magret, the most important part of the ruling is “the obligation to withdraw any disparaging article on any media, with a penalty payment of €500 per day of delay within 15 days of notification of the ruling. This puts an end to the denigration”.

Never before has there been such an aptly-named gagging procedure”, responded Valérie Murat. The activist said she had to analyse enforcement of the sentence, but for the time being has not toned down her remarks: “The so-called land of wine, France’s leading appellation, protects the worst thing: a vow of silence. [Bordeaux] continues to protect a fatal economy by spraying toxic pesticides from April to September affecting vineyard workers, local residents, schools...”

We are satisfied with today’s court decision. It takes into account the damage we have collectively suffered and reminds everyone that denigration cannot go unpunished”, said CIVB chairman Bernard Farges in a press release.

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