A French winemaker and champagne house has been accused of making and selling 1.8 million bottles of fake champagne.
Didier Chopin from the Marne (Grand Est) added other alcohol and carbonated gas to wines from outside the Champagne region and sold the final drink as champagne, according to claims from a former and a current employee.
The producer, who is said to own 22 brands of champagne, in particular used wine from the Ardèche and Spain to mix with CO2 and an unspecified alcohol spirit, they say, to make the ‘fake champagne’.
Didier Chopin denies the claims, branding them as ‘unfounded’ and ‘shameful’, reports L’Union newspaper.
The public prosecutor’s department now plans to open an inquiry.
It is claimed that around 1.8 million of these bottles have been sold, both in France and abroad, with each selling for between €10-20.
Bottles have been pulled from shelves in Leclerc and analysis is underway with anti-fraud officials informed.
Reims’ public prosecutor department awaits the dossier from them before opening the inquiry.
Hired by Chopin in 2021, Ludivine Jeanmingin, one of the sources of the claims, told France Bleu that after the banks decided to no longer support the business in April 2022, everything changed.
Ms Jeanmingin said that in June 2022, the winemaker told her he had won a contract for 800,000 bottles of sparkling wine.
However, soon the yellow bottles were swapped for green, boxes of champagne corks arrived and the drink itself changed appearance.
The recipe changed too said Ms Jeanmingin: they began to add CO2 and an unspecified alcohol spirit, which, she notes, is illegal.
The other person who came forward remains in their job at Didier Chopin and wishes to remain anonymous, but also confirmed that the production process changed in June 2022.
Although Ms Jeanmingin highlighted that the change to the recipe was not dangerous to people’s health, she added that ‘the taste is not good’.
Google reviews from customers agree, deeming the fake bottles ‘undrinkable’.
One review reads: ‘What a catastrophe! Undrinkable. This is not champagne and it is impossible to contact the producer!’
Another said: ‘An obvious problem with quality. No bubbles, oxidised, undrinkable.’
Once the anti-fraud department has delivered the dossier to the prosecutor in Reims, the department will analyse the bottles and decide how to open the inquiry.