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Wine fraud suit brought by three DOs in Southern Catalunya

On the 8th of October, 2021, the Catalan police, els Mossos d’Esquadra entered the premises of the wine company, Reserva de la Tierra SL in les Borges del Camp, Catalunya, Spain. They were acting upon a combined suit filed jointly by three Denominations of Origin: Priorat, Montsant, and Terra Alta as ‘irregularities’ had been found in specific lines of wines by stating they were certified by these DOs.

On the 18th of October the DOs released a public statement regarding the investigation in that they have filed the suit in order to: protect wine quality, monitor compliance of both growers and producers, and to protect their individual, legally-registered brands.

In a follow up interview with DO Montsant president, Pilar Just, she told Decanter that they had initially detected irregularities in wines dating back to March, 2020. DO seal checks and laboratory analysis of the wines that showed they didn’t pass the requirements for the DO and thus could never have been certified.

‘While fraud is fraud, the greatest impact of this revelation is for our viticulturists given that as a region, we’ve managed to increase the average price per kilo from 0.50€ to 1€ in recent years. This undermines all of that as there is no traceability as to the source of grapes.’

In talking with DO Terra Alta president, Joan Arrufí, he reiterated what Just stated, ‘We detected some irregularities as far back as 2019 but it was in talking with the other DOs that we realised the scope of the situation. We’ve found this company’s improperly certified wines as far away as the United States and China and this disregard for legality has to stop.’

Salus Àlvarez, president of the DOQ Priorat said, ‘We found some irregularities as well going back to 2019 via a study we were conducting of our wines in the local Catalan market. That’s when we came across these wines that were incorrectly labelled.

‘Thanks to a very fluid relationship with DO Montsant, we realised we had the same problem and decided to act together with DO Terra Alta, giving a great deal more force in this than any single DO on its own.’

The website for company, reservadelatierra.com, presents many photos of winemaking and vineyards, but a reverse image search reveals that these have all been appropriated from other websites or stock photography sources. They are in fact not at all representative of the company itself which exists as a very large warehouse with constant lorry traffic alongside the highway west of the city of Reus.

When visiting the premises, a sign outside noted that their shop is ‘Closed for vacations’ currently but Decanter was able to speak with a spokesperson who confirmed the entry of the Mossos on the 8th of October and their following investigation.

‘We’re working with the authorities in the investigation and look forward to returning to our normal state of operations to serve our clients.’ Beyond this statement, they declined to comment as to their overall production or any additional specifics about the wines in question.

The DOs stated that they could not comment as to which brands of Reserva de la Tierra were in question nor as to the quantity of wines that have been produced due to the pending investigation.

On 21 October, the Catalan police released a preliminary list of the wines charged with being labeled falsely:

HEREDAD MESTRAL 2017 (DOQ Priorat)

HEREDAD MESTRAL CIERVO 2017 (DOQ Priorat)

VEGA ESCAL 2016, 2017 (DOQ. Priorat)

CLOS ROJA  2017 (DOQ Priorat)

VINYA CARLES 2017 (DOQ Priorat)

HEREDAD CENTUM 2017 (DO Montsant)

VESPRAL GRAN RESERVA 2014 (DO Terra Alta)

VESPRAL RESERVA  2016, 2017 (DO Terra Alta)

VESPRAL CRIANZA 2016, 2017, 2018 (DO Terra Alta)

ARMONICO SELECCIÓN 2017, 2018 (DO Terra Alta)

ARMONICO GRAN SELECCIÓN 2016, 2017 (DO Terra Alta)

VESPRAL VENDIMIA SELECCIONADA 2018 (DO Terra Alta)

GRAFICO GRAN SELECCIÓN 2018 (DO Terra Alta)

GRAFICO SELECCIÓN 2019 (DO Terra Alta)

Pallets of these additional wines have been held by the police for further investigation as well:

SLATES OF BONMONT 2017 (DOQ Priorat)

HEREDAD CENTUM 2019 (DO Montsant)

CARLES HEREDAD 2019 (DO Montsant)

ESCAL ROJA GRAN RESERVA 2015 (DO Terra Alta)

HEREDAD CHEROGA 2018  (DO Terra Alta)

VESPRAL GRAN RESERVA 2015  (DO Terra Alta)

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