France is a “banana republic” says Guffens

When the fraud squad raided Verget from Verget.

Jean-Marie Guffens, a winemaker in Macon who founded Maison Verget, endured a decade-long investigation by French authorities, including Customs and Fraud office. It started in 2001 after the grapes were harvested but before the winery staff had even filed the harvest paperwork. And it continued ebbing and flowing, with allegations that Guffens was blending wine from the south into his Burgundies. In the 27-minute video, Guffens declares that “we live in a banana republic” with “mafia-style” raids including a surprise winery inspection with 25 officers, and accusations of complicity against the staff. His wife and members of the staff were even held in custody for two days. Eventually, in 2010, the charges were dropped. Guffens sued to have his name exonerated and– SPOLIER ALERT!–a judge in Beaune ruled in his favor in November.

This action and the heavy-handed tactics over Olivier Cousin’s whimsical labeling, set against the backdrop of declining domestic wine consumption, illustrate the difficult days for many French vignerons. I’ll add it to my file for updating Wine Politics.

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4 Responses to “France is a “banana republic” says Guffens”

  1. This footage is terrifying, if not entirely surprising: the Repression des Fraudes is feared all over France, and I’v heard a number of similar stories of harassment.
    What amazes me is that Guffens gives up on it with just a glass of Pouilly-Fuisse and having his name exonerated. I think an entrepreneur like him should take the matters very high including the European Court of Human Rights. Otherwise this lawlessness by a cast of well-fed “civil servants” will never stop.

  2. Wow. Sounds like the United States: Thomas Drake – ordeal lasting from 2006-2011 (not wine related, however)

  3. Nothing so far fetched. Especially since a winery/winemaker is always vulnerable during harvest. You hit him then … you could easily destroy him. As M. Guffens correctly stated – he made the mistake of trying to get back at a police officer in 2009. Apparently, and this is an old french trait, he must have offended the pride of the police officer. In Central Europe there are only two executive powers that can acct as M. Guffens has experienced it – in a raid . One of them is the customs-office. A very powerful weapon, as it can take a company out of business within days. This was not the first – nor the last raid “falsly” executed under the suspision of a customs-crime. The police officer who instructed the investigation knew that … M. Guffons has all the rights to take this higher – much higher ! I disagree about the “Banana Republic”, but what he has suffered would need to be investigated more thourougly. But for that he would not only need time, but also money – lots of money. Administrative offices have tax money to defend themselves for years if necessary. And they know it. It´s not a question of having the “right” …. it´s the question of getting it….

  4. […] Guffens, the winemaker and owner of Maison Verget in Burgundy, releases a 26-minute video explaining why France’s wine bureaucrats have convinced him that the nation is “a banana […]


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