French Winemakers fined

  • Saturday 12 February 2000

A French court has fined the former director of Château Giscours, the renowned Médoc third growth, for using wood to flavour wine contrary to official regulations.

Jean-Michel Ferrandez, a highly respected oenologist, was ordered to pay around £8,000 for using oak pieces in the concrete vats used to ferment the lesser wines of the estate (the grand vin of Giscours was unaffected). This practice is strictly forbidden by French winemaking legislation though it is a common occurrence at many New World wineries.

The court case arose out of an investigation by the French authorities into allegations of malpractice at the château in connection with the 1995 Sirène de Giscours (Giscours' second wine) which emerged in the summer of 1998 and has lead to the prosecution of a number of other estates. Investigators at Giscours discovered documents which lead them to Demptos, a cooper which had supplied the wood. At Demptos, company records revealed that wood had been sold to three other Bordelais estates, including two crus bourgeois.

All three properties, plus the coopers, were fined £8,000. Demptos and one château are appealing on the grounds that the wood was purchased for experimental purposes and was never intended to be used to make wines to sell to the public.

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