Zut alors! Almost five million bottles (34,000 hectolitres ) of French wine were fraudulently labeled. Even worse, ne’er-do-wells have been passing off bulk produced Spanish wine as a product of France. The number one offender? 10 million bottles of fake French rosé. Criminal charges will follow. That’s the finding of a massive two year investigation that wrapped up this week. Sacré bleu!
The Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Controls (DGCCRF) reported audits of 179 purveyors in 2016 and 564 in 2017.
The commission’s findings revealed that while most establishments were clean, the market was till awash in cases of ‘francisation.’ Francisation, the process of passing off foreign wine as French is “an offense that is the subject of criminal penalties” according to the DGCCRF.
Indeed, francisation is a serious offense. The agency stated that fraud charges have been filed against unnamed defendants. Potential punishments include two years in prison as well as a €300,000 fine which can be increased to include profits made off phoney products. In one specific case, a retailer already was ordered to pull 17,000 bottles from their shelves.
“These [fraudulent practices] can have significant negative repercussions and significant economic consequences. The checks showed that the regulations were correctly applied in most cases,” the DGCCRF stated. Serious deficiencies have been noted, however, which may involve large volumes.”
Passing a Spanish wine off as a glorious French wine is no easy feat; these scoundrels employed a variety of cunning methods according to the DGCCRF. Th easiest method employed was simply to omit any mention of country of origin.
In other cases, the offenders paid lip service to the law and did, in fact, list Spain at the country of origin. However, the notation was often print in a light color or hidden, e.g. beneath the handle of a box o’ wine. In another particularly devious move, the glorious symbols of France like the fleur-de-lis and the Gallic rooster are positioned prominently on the labeling to deceive the customer.
The investigation also put the lens on restaurants. Several eateries were cited for listing no country of origin on their wine list. Even worse, the DGCCRF cited cases where restauranteurs outright lied to their guests, listing foreign wines as French.
“This survey concerned both the protection of consumers, so that they have a fair information enabling them to guide their choices in a sufficiently informed way, and the protection of wine industry professionals against fraudulent practices,” declared the report.
Photo by Mick Stephenson[CC3.0]