Massive Côtes du Rhône wine fraud revealed

Over 10,000 hectolitres were confirmed as falsely sold under the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC name

Millions of bottles of plonk passed off as AOC wines, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Almost half a million hectolitres of wine - about 66.5million bottles - have been falsely sold under the Côtes du Rhône AOC label - with some even falsely named as the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC - it has been confirmed.

The report, published this week by the Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) confirmed the fraud, saying that more than 480,000 hectolitres of wine had been affected.

This represents 15% of the total production of the Côtes du Rhône region - enough to fill 13 Olympic swimming pools.

The inquiry into the 2017 case found “a massive misuse of the Côtes du Rhône AOC by a significant business”, the DGCCRF said.

It confirmed that between October 2013 and June 2016, at least 200,000 hectolitres of wine had been placed on sale with a false AOC from the ‘Côtes du Rhône’ and ‘Côtes du Rhône-Villages’, of which 10,000 litres had been falsely labelled with the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC name.

Initially, the DGCCRF had been alerted to a wine cellar containing more than 1,000 hectolitres falsely labelled as AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape, worth an estimated €700,000.

Further investigations later revealed the deception to have spread far further, with the final total stated in the report as 480,000 hectolitres.

Although the DGCCRF did not name the business concerned, it confirmed that the CEO was being investigated for “deception and fraud”.

He had been placed under legal supervision after a bail payment of €1m, and had also been “banned from operating” in his own business, the report said. Further information to France 3 said that he was a négociant from Vaucluse.

“These controls have a positive effect on the sector by showing that fraud is stopped and punished,” said the director general of the DGCCRF, Virginie Beaumeunier. “It also shows the reliability of the French system.”

The AOC "appellation" is a French term, meaning “appellation d'origine contrôlée”, which has been slowly replaced over recent years by the term AOP, the European equivalent meaning “appellation d'origine protégée”.

Both terms denote official certification granted to products, and ensure their geographical provenance, as well as their quality and status.

Often, the appellation means that companies can command higher prices for their goods.

Under the new European system, AOP is the “top” quality label, followed by Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS), Indication Geographique Protegée (IGP) and the bottom-most label, Vin de Table (VdT).

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