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Massive Côte du Rhône fine-wine fraud uncovered by French police

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Massive Côte du Rhône fine-wine fraud uncovered by French police
Photo: Flickr
13:23 CET+01:00
Some 66.5 million bottles of wine, the equivalent of 13 Olympic sized swimming pools full of plonk, was falsely sold as high quality Côtes-du-Rhône wine, French officials have revealed.

Almost half a million hectolitres of wine was sold off under the Côtes du Rhône AOC label - which denotes both the geographical origin of the wine and a certification of quality. 

Some of the wine, 10,000 litres in fact, was even falsely sold under the renowned Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOP label, the commercial value off which was €7000,000.

The massive fraud was revealed in a report this week by France's consumer fraud body the Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCDRF).

Their inquiry into the 2017 scam unearthed a "massive misuse of the Côtes-du-Rhône label" including by a major wine producer, which has not been named.

But DGCCRF chief executive Virginie Beaumeunier told the press that the "CEO of the company" was "indicted for deception and fraud".

Wine fraud in France has become an issue for authorities and customers alike in recent years with the problem being highlighted by the jailing in 2016 of a French wine baron.

Francois-Marie Marret was given a two-year sentence for fraud for blending poor quality wine with high-end Saint-Emilions, Lalande-de-Pomerols and Listrac-Medocs to sell to major supermarkets under prestigious labels.

The 800,000-litre (211,000-gallon) "moon wine" fraud, so called because the cheap wine was spirited to his operation by night, was uncovered thanks to the diligent work of French customs inspectors.

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The hunt for fraudsters in France's wine heartlands

The country has been hit by several fraud scandals in recent years.

In 2010, 12 French winemakers and dealers were convicted of selling millions of bottles of fake Pinot Noir to the US firm E&J Gallo.

Before that, in 2006 legendary Beaujolais winemaker Georges Duboeuf was fined more than 30,000 euros for blending grapes from different vineyards to disguise the poor quality of certain prized vintages.

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