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Fraudsters hit French producers

Chateau de Marmorieres in La Clape has become the latest victim of major fraud, with the theft of 18,000 bottles worth €50,000 (£34,000).

The Languedoc-Roussillon chateau received an order from someone identifying himself as Dee James, the wine buyer for Maxwell’s Restaurants in London. The caller gave a delivery address on Tottenham High Road, in North London.

‘He ordered a selection of white, rosé and red Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape including our Cuvée les Amandiers, plus 7,000 bottles of red vins de pays,’ estate owner Sabine de Woillemont told decanter.com.

Upon arrival at the designated drop-off point, the driver was directed to a nearby side street where the wine was unloaded into a white van. He was given a cheque that subsequently bounced. Maxwell’s Restaurants claims no knowledge of the order or of James, and the phone number provided by the original caller does not work.

The police are investigating.

The French wine industry has been beset with such attempts of late.

Such producers as Chateau La Variere (Anjou), Hubert Brochard (Sancerre) and Domaine Tariquet (Gascony) have reported receiving requests from callers posing as buyers for various companies, including Hydes Brewery in Manchester, the Thistle Kensington Park Hotel, the Carlton Tower in London and D & J Exports Ltd, a petrochemical company in Westcliff-on-Sea.

Their suspicion was aroused, and they did not fill the orders.

‘We have been getting enquiries from producers almost every day,’ said Olivier Prothon, head of the agricultural sector of the French Economic Mission in London. ‘When anyone is approached like this they should contact their industry association.’

Written by Jim Budd

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