The prosecutor in the Giscours wine fraud case has requested a six-month suspended sentence for Eric Albada Jelgersma, part-owner of Chateau Giscours.
The court case dates back to accusations of mixing AOC Haut Medoc and AOC Margaux in the second wine of Chateau Giscours, La Sirene de Giscours, in 1995 – a wine that should be made entirely from AOC Margaux grapes.
The original accusation was brought by an ex-employee, who had lost his job when Albada took over the property.
Albada was in court on Monday, in a wheelchair following a 2005 yachting accident that left him unable to walk.
He told the court that he had been told nothing of any illegal practices, and that he never interfered in any way in the technical running of the property.
His two co-defendants in the case are Jean-Michel Ferrandez, the technical director who left in 1996, and Pascal Froidefond, who was then a consultant reporting to Ferrandez, and is now purchasing director at the chateau.
Ferrandez confirmed that he gave the instruction to swap 150 hectolitres of Margaux appellation wine with Haut Medoc wine, but claimed that he was acting on Albada’s orders.
He told the court, ‘If I remember correctly, the chateau stood to gain around one million francs from the activity.’
Froidefond stressed that the mixing of appellations only ever concerned one tank of 150 hectolitres – not the 1,396 hectolitres suggested by the prosecution – and that it was carried out for ‘quality reasons, never for financial gain.’
A source close to the chateau told decanter.com the idea that Albada would given any order to mix the appellations was ‘ridiculous’: he had just taken over the chateau and winemaking processes were totally alien to him.
When the news of the adulteration came out in 1998, Albada announced he would exchange or buy back all bottles of 1995 Sirene.
Prosecutor Jean Philippe Daney requested a suspended sentence of six months, together with a €30,000 fine against Albada, plus two months suspended sentences for Ferrandez and Froidefond.
Alexander Van Beek, general director of Chateau Giscours, said, ‘We hope that after 13 years this thing can be put behind us and we can concentrate on the future.’
The judge will return his decision on 30 June.
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux, and Adam Lechmere