Bordeaux wine merchant William Pitters - formerly owned by Bernard Magrez but now part of Marie Brizard - has been found guilty of false advertising and fined €30,000 for the passing off of a mass-produced branded wine as an estate-bottled one.
The charge relates to the labeling and advertising of Jean Beauvillon du Pays d’Oc, a brand from the south of France that Pitters created in 2001 and that is now under the direction of Castel, another Bordeaux wine merchant.
The former marketing director, Philippe Rives, has also been fined €5,000 for his part in the matter. At the time, Magrez was in charge of the company.
According to the tribunal, the label mentioned a Maison Beauvillon that didn’t exist at the time (Pitters had in fact only begun construction of the chais), and stated the wine was ‘bottled for Maison Beauvillon’. The actual place of bottling appeared only on the back label.
An advert in French magazine Paris Match carried the words, ‘Jean Beauvillon of the Pays d’Oc’ together with an image of the vineyard and the words, ‘one man, one terroir, one success’.
‘This was not a chance association,’ the magistrate said, ‘but an attempt to improve the perception of the quality of the wine, knowing that in France there is almost always a preference for bottles made by individual winemakers above those made by wine merchants or cooperative cellars.’
Xavier Renard, product manager at Castel, told decanter.com Jean Beauvillon is being replaced by a new varietal-led brand, Mesteral. ‘We have been working on this new brand for over a year, well before the negative publicity surrounding Jean Beauvillon. It’s purely a commercial decision to focus on grape variety rather than vins de pays.’
Written by Jane Anson