Château Pétrus winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet is fuming about a wine magazine's revival of a bizarre fraud case.
La Revue du Vin de France says the case – in which the owner of a small Paris wine business bought 42 bottles of fake Pétrus, and followed its trail to a dead end with a mystery man in the fine wine section of a supermarket – has never been solved.
In February 2000 François Mano of Les Vins de la Comète bought 42 bottles of 1982 Pétrus, 42 bottles of 1990 and two cases of 1989, from Sebastien Laffitte of Laffitte Grands Vins. He paid a total €106,700 (US$92,700).
Mano then offered the wine to London buyer Andy Lynch, who instantly spotted they were fakes, as did Pétrus oenologist Berrouet, who examined the capsule, label and cork of a bottle of 1982 Mano sent him.
‘The bottle has a capsule not used by the château,’ Berrouet reported. ‘The lettering on the capsule is too big…the markings on the cork do not correspond with those on a genuine bottle…’
Mano went back to Laffitte, who refused a refund but to show good faith helped the police. He said he had bought the wines from Claude Delapierre, a small-time butcher in Rungis.
Delapierre was found – and arrested making a delivery of Château d’Yquem and Latour, which was genuine but allegedly of suspicious origin. He said he had bought the Pétrus from Didier Dupuy, sales executive for a Paris printer.
When Dupuy was tracked down and questioned, he said he had bought the fake wines from a man named Jacques whom he met by chance in the fine wine section of the Carrefour supermarket.
‘Jacques’ was never found. Two months later the judge shelved the case – to the astonishment of certain local magistrates.
‘The case should be reopened,’ a spokesman for the Nanterre magistrates’ circuit told La Revue du Vin de France.
And Berrouet himself is annoyed the magazine implies Pétrus is dragging its feet.
‘We have a lawyer and he takes whatever action he considers most efficient,’ he told decanter.com. ‘If a person has been duped, it is up to him to take action and we will join with him. Mano only just took out proceedings – on 3 February.’
The magazine reports that it has already become difficult to market the great Pétrus vintages – the 1982, the 45, 47, 61, 89 and 1990 – while the châteaux itself is doing all it can to make its bottles fraud-proof, with light-sensitive codes, imprinted glass and other hi-tech devices.
Berrouet added, ‘They did not bother to come and see what we are doing here. For 15 years we have been working on ways of preventing this kind of fraud.’
Written by Alan Spencer in Bordeaux, and Adam Lechmere26 February 2002