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Fraud probe finds Spanish wine passed off as French

A winemaker in southern France has been caught out passing off Spanish wine as French, heightening tension in the region after a wine tanker from Spain was attacked earlier this year.

French customs officials have charged a grower in the Aude region of Languedoc-Roussillon with selling Spanish wine labelled as table wine – or ‘vin de table’ – from France.

According to a report in the local L’Independant newspaper, a French grower based near Narbonne sold 30,000 hectolitres of wrongly labelled wine to a large merchant in the region. That’s equivalent to around four million bottles.

The grower, who has not been named, was fined 97,000 euros for passing off the Spanish wine as French, the paper reported. It said the grower bought the wine for between 25 to 35 euros per hetolitre and sold it for double the price.

Local wine unions seized on the case as evidence of a problem with the amount of Spanish wine crossing the border.

‘The French buyer is a victim,’ said Frédéric Rouanet, leader of the Aude wine union, speaking of the merchant unwittingly caught up in the fraud case.

There have been protests against lorries of Spanish wine heading into France. This culminated in a group of militant winemakers hijacking a Spanish tanker in April this year and pouring its wine all over the motorway. The driver was un-harmed.

Rouanet told Decanter.com that the recent fraud case ‘proves that our actions were not in vain’.

Rouanet previously claimed that some of the Spanish wine crossing the border did not meet French regulations.

French customs officials were not available for comment this week. It is believed that other investigations are ongoing in the region.

France is the world’s largest wine producing nation, but cheap Spanish wine is commonly imported at the behest of French supermarkets.

There is nothing illegal about this, as long as the wines are labelled as Spanish on the shop shelves – or at least wines of the European Union.

The strategy has long annoyed some producers in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Editing and extra reporting by Chris Mercer

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