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Cheaper Spanish wine passed as French vintage
WINE merchants in France have been passing off a lower-end Spanish rosado as vintage French rosé, according to a major consumer watchdog in Paris.
An estimated 10 million bottles purporting to be a top-end aged wine made in France from home-grown grapes are thought to have been affected between late 2015 and the end of 2017.
The consumer authority, which deals with fraud cases and carries out inspections on traders, says around 15% of those audited last year and some 22% in 2016 were bottling or selling wine they knew was a cheaper Spanish version.
In total, 743 businesses were found to be falsely claiming their wine was a vintage French rosé.
They included bars and restaurants who served wine in glasses without customers being able to see the bottle, as well as retailers and manufacturers – some of whom stuck labels with random châteaux bearing fake names on them.
Some wine merchants did not actively lie to consumers, but misled them by printing Produit en France in large letters, then in small print on the back stating it was a 'European community' wine.
Another 'trick' was to avoid claiming the wine was French, but instead decorating the label with the French flag, a fleur-de-lis or another image or symbol that denotes France.
The vintage rosé they claimed to be selling carried a wholesale price of between 75 and 90 cents a litre at the time, whereas the Spanish non-vintage rosado cost just 34 cents a litre – less than half or, in some cases, only just over a third of the price.
Frauds of this nature can cost the offender a two-year jail sentence on top of a fine of up to €300,000.
Spanish wine tends to be cheaper than French, which has often led to complaints of the southern nation undercutting its trans-Pyrénéen neighbour, and even cross-border motorway blockades stopping lorryloads of wine from entering France.
But French wine is more familiar to many international markets – whilst still in a minority compared with 'new world' versions, it is far more common to see wine from France on UK supermarket shelves than from Spain.
Where the latter is sold, it is usually unbranded and simply labelled 'Spanish wine'.
Whilst French vineyard-owners say price is the main driver for wine-buyers, in practice it is often a question of flavour preference.
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