25 Feb - Yesterday the court in Dijon imposed the relatively lenient fine of 1,000 euros on Emmanuel Giboulot who by then had garnered about half a million signatures in his support. See this thread on our Members' forum for an airing of some of the many complex issues raised.
On Monday a Burgundian vigneron will appear before a court in Dijon risking prison or a substantial fine for the crime of refusing to spray his organically and biodynamically grown vines with a chemical that the authorities are insisting should be used on all Côte d'Or vineyards to try to halt the northward spread of flavescence dorée, or grapevine yellows.
Emmanuel Giboulot of Beaune is mobilising all the tools available to users of social media to try to convince the judge that he has sufficient public support that he should not be made to pollute the ecosystem he has spent years building up in his vineyards by using what he calls 'a dangerous pesticide' in the region's attempt to eliminate the insects that spread this fatal phytoplasma vine disease described here in your online Oxford Companion to Wine. It has been steadily moving north east in France since it was first identified in the Armagnac vineyards in 1949 and has reached the Mâconnais.
Giboulot argues that a number of other, more natural, methods of repulsing the leaf hoppers responsible for spreading the disease are just as effective, and has consistently refused to apply the pesticide. Everything came to a head last year when an inspector demanded to see his receipts for the pesticide in question. Another man might have falsified some but I sense Giboulot was spoiling for a fight. (I heard about this issue when in Gevrey last December.)
You can watch this video of him and his cri de coeur in which he describes very clearly, with subtitles, though admittedly all in French, what has happened. His original wish was to be an actor, apparently, and he certainly gives a very good performance. But he eventually took over a (fairly widely dispersed) family domaine that has been organic since 1985. It's easy to see why he is so reluctant to prejudice its organic status.
You can add your name to the more than 250,000 signatures on his petition on the video page, too. And/or you can like the relevant Facebook page.
This thoroughly modern campaign certainly seems to have been pretty effective. I have been emailed about it by a wide range of friends in France and have signed the petition. But I feel it is not a black and white case. Flavescence dorée is a very serious threat. Once vines are affected - our image shows the first symptoms - yields plummet and the vines eventually die. There is no known cure. Nor is this a specifically French problem. An increasing number of vines are affected by various grapevine yellows in Italy, Germany and Australia, too. Perhaps we should really be signing a petition demanding that all nurseries tighten up prevention of phytoplasma vine diseases on their young plant material before selling it, and demanding more research into effective treatments for stricken vines.