A Suggestion for Sébastien Riffault
Beset by anonymous allegations of sexual assault, the Sancerre vigneron won a defamation suit against Isabelle Perraud, who shared the allegations on Instagram. It won't fix his reputation. What will?
In August 2022, Sancerre vigneron Sébastien Riffault, beset since January of that year in the Danish media by anonymous allegations of sexual assault, brought a defamation lawsuit against Beaujolais vigneronne Isabelle Perraud. The latter is an outspoken critic of wine industry misogyny, who in May of that year had used the Instagram account of her advocacy group, Paye Ton Pinard, to share an Instagram Story regarding the allegations that named Riffault as the subject.1
Initially scheduled for June 8th, a verdict in the case came a few days early, in Riffault’s favor. Isabelle Perraud, a natural winemaker herself - who knows as well as Riffault the struggles making ends meet in the face of frost, hail, mildew, and the diverse challenges of making wine without additives - now owes him close to 30’000€.
For someone in Riffault’s position, the optics aren’t great. He has not addressed the anonymous allegations from Denmark and appears to believe - in the face of reality, in our Internet era - that a ruling in a courtroom in Bourges will repair his reputation worldwide. Instead it has left onlookers with the image of an accused man wielding the courts to silence a woman and fellow winemaker and take rather a lot of her money.
A MODEST PROPOSAL
Like many in the natural wine world, I’ve been dismayed and depressed by the whole affair.
I’ve known both Riffault2 and Perraud for many years, and have purchased wine from both for Paris wine lists. Perraud certainly doesn’t deserve to pay such a heavy price for her well-intentioned advocacy work. While condemning in the strongest possible way the conduct described in the allegations from Denmark, I have no desire to see Riffault ruined, for it would mean the end of an estate that has been, for almost two decades, a lone beacon of natural farming and winemaking in Sancerre.
It is in the spirit of rapprochement, then, that I am offering the following modest proposal: Riffault could donate the money he won in his defamation case to a support group for sexual assault victims.
One such association springs to mind: Isabelle Perraud’s own Paye Ton Pinard.
If Riffault is not feeling quite that magnanimous in the wake of his adventure in court, here are several other France-based women’s advocacy groups he might consider:
Nous Toutes: “A feminist collective open to all, composed of volunteer activists whose objective is to end sexist and sexual violence of which the massive majority of victims in France are women and children.”
Osez Le Feminisme: An organization formed in 2009 aiming to “fight for the abolition of prostitutional systems and criminal pornography” and “struggle against patriarchal justice.”
La Maison des Femmes: Founded in 1981 and located in Paris 12ème arrondissement, its goals are to support “access to rights, the capacity to act, and the autonomy of women.”
For Riffault, donating the proceeds of his defamation lawsuit would be a neat way of demonstrating that he takes the plight of sexual assault victims seriously. It would also help confirm the sincerity of his lawsuit, which maintained that he was simply taking a stand against defamation, and not implicitly attempting to silence or threaten victims of sexual assault or their allies.
As such, a donation of this sort might help do what the June 2022 letter from his peers circulated in his favor and his successful defamation lawsuit have both spectacularly failed to do: rehabilitate his reputation, and make us feel basically okay drinking his natural sauvignon again.
A fund in support of Isabelle Perraud is being prepared in conjunction with her Paye Ton Pinard association. Supporters can find it here.
Subscribers to Not Drinking Poison can scroll further down past the subscribe pitch to read A FULL ESSAY on the saga of Riffault versus Perraud below. It goes into a lot more detail on the case and my take on it.
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More on the Riffault saga below for subscribers.