Several hundred thousand hectolitres of Vin de Pays d’Oc was fraudulently sold and exported to the US over the last four years, it has emerged.
According to reports, between 2005 and 2008, over 120,00hl (hectolitres) of falsely-labelled Pinot Noir was sold every year to the US via negociants and wine companies in the Aude region.
The fraud was spotted by the regional wine office, which works in conjunction with the local anti-fraud agency, when it became clear there was a discrepancy in the figures of Pinot Noir production and export.
The Aude is part of the wider Languedoc-Roussillon area, which produces only 50,000hl of Pinot Noir per year.
The public prosecutor’s office would not comment on the details of the case.
Individual winemakers, cooperatives, the Ducasse negociant firm in Carcassone and the large Sieur d’Arques wine company are all under investigation.
According to southern French newspaper La Depeche, the fraudulent wine was sold by winemakers and cooperatives to the negociant which in turn sold the wine to Sieur d’Arques for export to the US. It is not clear at which stage the fraud occurred.
At the time of going to press, representatives from Ducasse and Sieur d’Arques were not available for comment.
Citing an informant, the newspaper said the profit margins for those concerned were ‘huge’. Pinot Noir fetches double the standard price for red wine from the region.
Although there have been no formal charges, a trial is expected.
‘The hearings are well advanced – they should have some legal outcome,’ said public prosecutor Francois Battut.
Written by Oliver Styles