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WINE

Ten million bottles French rosé wine turns out to be cheap Spanish plonk

Lovers of rosé wine will have cause to study the labels on the bottles lined up on French supermarket shelves a little more carefully this summer.

Ten million bottles French rosé wine turns out to be cheap Spanish plonk
AFP

That's because millions of bottles of Spanish wine are hidden among the vast array of French rosé wines being sold, according to France's consumer fraud authority the DGCCRF.

The body carried out an investigation over two years to check whether wine originally from Spain was being imported into France and sold off as French tipple.

The DGCCRF detected cases of fraud with four producers concerning around 70,000 hectolitres of wine, the equivalent of around 10 million bottles.

 According to French daily Le Parisien, which first reported the findings, Spanish rose sold in bulk at the time for just 34 euro cents ($0.40) a litre 
compared with 75 to 90 cents for French rose.

“We were alerted to the 'Frenchification' of Spanish wine at the end of 2015,” the consumer agency's Alexandre Chevallier told the paper.

“So we launched an inquiry at all levels, from producers to importers to restaurants and distributors,” he said.

In the Paris region some 17,000 bottles of Spanish rosé being sold as French wine were taken off the supermarket shelves.

Commercial fraud charges have been lodged and one producer now faces up to two years in prison and a fine of €300,000.

The scam is all in the labelling. Sometimes the origin of the wine is hidden on the label, especially in rosé wine sold in boxes, while other labels will have a traditional French fleur de lys flower on the label and say “bottled in France”. But that doesn't mean that the wine is French.

The main labels on other bottles had images of a French chateau to give the impression the grapes were grown on a vineyard in France, only for the label on the back of the bottle to contain the barely readable words: “Origin: Spanish wine”.

In other cases it was simply a case of supermarkets including Spanish rosé in the French section of the isle to give customers the impression they were buying a “Made in France” wine.

Tensions have long simmered between winegrowers on either side of the Pyrenees, with French producers often accusing their Spanish rivals of unfair competition.

In recent years French protests have blocked Spanish trucks from bringing their wine into the country, with demonstrators emptying their loads onto highways.

Production surpluses in Spain have pushed down prices there, making the country's wines a better deal for consumers — and a tempting substitute for some French distributors.

“It's a question of price,” Jerome Despey, a winegrower in the southern Herault region and member of the FNSEA agricultural union, told AFP.

Earlier this summer a collective panic seemed to take hold of France with the anxious French wine lovers asking themselves if they will have enough rosé to get through the summer. 

It all started with an article in Les Echos business newspaper titled “Will there be enough rosé this summer?”
 
The article suggested the combination of increased global demand for rosé and the smaller grape harvest of 2017 will leave wine glasses empty before the summer is out.
 
But Brice Eymard, the delegate general from the Inter-professional Council of Provence Wines (CIVP) told The Local that wine lovers shouldn't panic just yet.

READ ALSO:

Exports of rosé from Provence boom thanks to American wine lovers

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FARMING

Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts

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