As I write this, burgundian vigneron Emmanuel Giboulot is in a Dijon after the masses showed up for peaceful show of support.
The passionate Biodynamic vigneron is being prosecuted by a branch of the French agriculature ministry for failing to apply a mandatory insecticide treatment to his vineyard aimed at Pierce's Disease (flavescence dorée). Well known in California as well, this vine killer is spread by the cicadelle, the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus aka glassy-winged sharpshooter.
Pyrevert, the questionable treatment in question is derived from nature. Yet it is not with out danger. If you follow the link, the product guidelines clearly states the chemical is highly dangerous to aquatic systems and animals. For the human? Read the precautions for handling. My eyebrows are raised. See more in this Scientific American article.
When you're talking about a committed grower like Giboulot, refusal to spray seems not only reasonable but unquestionable
Last month in the Loire, at the biodynamic tasting Le Renaissance, I went over to taste with him and to see how he was holding up. Where was the official support from Renaissance, I wanted to know. What were the others doing besides providing signatures? Were they in fear of being discovered for disobedience themselves? After all, Burgundy is filled with small biodynamic farmers who also refuse to spray. Some of the biggest names in Burgundy, Domaine Romanée Conti, Domaine Leroy, Bonneau du Matray, Pierre Morey suffered the same threat. He assured me he was not alone, but most of the work was being done behind closed doors.
A few steps down the room stood a Crumb-like, Mr. Natural-ish bearded vigneron from the Macon. He, an activist is also involved in the underground effort. "The best way head off the Agriculture Department," he said, "is to buy a bottle of the stuff. Empty the container (safely) and display it to the official. Then pass it on to your neighbor."
A Merry Prankster method? Perhaps. Effective? Sure. But ultimately to make change, a them against us tactic might not be the best and change is needed. The rise of disease (and yes, this is personal opinion) is the effect of the monoculture and chemical-based vine growing. All you have to do is see grapes growing in the wild, as I did in Georgia. 400- year -old -vines, resplendant in health with many bunches. One had to wonder, did grape disease exist in the forest? Where the vines are in a healthy state, the threat of disease is greatly decreased. The trick is to mimic nature as much as possible when the vines are cultivated.
In talking to Domaine Montchovet, Joelle said, "Any of us could have been prosecuted. He is standing for us all."
(The proceedings are over. Next stop judgement on April 7th)