Judgement in the long-running Chanson fraud case has been delayed until early December for fear of adversely affecting the weekend’s Hospices de Beaune auctions.
Andre Segala, the director of Burgundy trade body the BIVB, personally asked the judge in the case to delay the outcome, which was originally due on 16 November and will now not be announced until 8 December.
The original date would have been mere days before the annual auctions at the Hospices de Beaune on the weekend of 20 and 21 November. As a barometer of wines’ performance and price the auctions are second in importance only to Bordeaux’s spring barrel tastings.
The BIVB – whose job is to promote Burgundy wines – feared that the publicity generated by the judgement in the longest-running fraud case in Burgundy’s history would affect the impressions of the hundreds of wine journalists who descend on Burgundy for the weekend.
A spokeswoman for the BIVB told decanter.com the decision was not a political one. ‘It was simply a request. The BIVB has to defend and promote Burgundy wines. The judgement would have influenced journalists.’
Fears still remain that prices of Burgundy could have been affected: the price of red wines fell by 31% this year.
‘L’affaire Chanson’ concerns the adulteration of Burgundy with wines from outside the appellation.
In March 2001 police arrested brothers Philippe, 72, and Francois Marion, 75, who had owned Chanson until late 1999, when they sold to Societe Jacques Bollinger, owners of Bollinger Champagne.
The brothers were accused of fraud – with some 40 different wines totalling 25,000 cases, involving mostly red Burgundies from the 1996, 1997 and 1999 vintages – under suspicion.
The Marions pleaded guilty. They were joined in the dock by Etienne Bizot of Societe Jacques Bollinger, who originally reported the Marions, and cellar master Marc Cugney.
The financial loss to the company has been estimated at €7m.
Written by Adam Lechmere, and Antony le Ray-Cook