An investigation has uncovered a scam on an industrial scale in France's Rhône Valley, involving a major regional bulk wine-maker and trader.
The probe, conducted by France's state Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs & Fraud Control (DGCCRF), focuses on table wines without geographical indication that have been passed off as AOC Côtes du Rhône Villages-labelled product. The fraud could concern more than 480,000 hectolitres of wine - the equivalent of 15% of the Côtes du Rhône's annual production, the agency said.
The DGCCRF has not disclosed the identity of the company under investigation, but did confirm that its CEO has been charged with fraud and criminal deception. He has been released from custody on EUR1m (US$1.2m) bail but is forbidden from exercising duties at the company.
A source close to the investigation has been quoted in French media this week as saying the investigation centres around the Etablissements Raphaël Michel based in the Vaucluse département. In August, the French bulk wine producer declined to confirm to just-drinks reports that its general manager Guillaume Ryckwaert had been arrested.
The DGCCRF added this week that wine trade bodies in the region are intending to institute civil proceedings with regard to the case.
By Stuart Todd
March 16, 2018
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