Fifty-three Beaujolais wine producers are on trial this week for illegally adding sugar to their wines.

Adding sugar to wine – chaptalisation – is legal in France within specific limits, but the producers in question did not obtain the necessary approvals.

Yesterday, Monday January 26th, the majority of the producers admitted adding too much sugar, thereby raising alcohol levels to 2.5 degrees, instead of the 2 degrees allowed.

A spokesperson for 41 of the producers said due to the bad weather in 2004, when up to 200mm of rain fell in the two weeks leading up to the harvest, they had hoped to get official approval allowing them to go to 2.5 degrees.

The producers went ahead with the chaptalisation process while waiting for the approval, which was not in fact granted, leaving them on the wrong side of the law.

The court will also examine how the producers obtained their sugar. Four supermarkets and four suppliers are also on trial for illegally buying and selling about 600 tonnes of sugar between 2004 and 2007.

The trial concludes tomorrow, 28 January.

Written by Sophie Kevany in Bordeaux