King of Beaujolais on trial for wine tampering
VILLEFRANCHE-SUR-SAONE, France, April 4, 2006 (AFP) - Georges Duboeuf, the man who launched the phenomenal success of Beaujolais Nouveau wines, appeared in court Tuesday to answer charges that his company adulterated the equivalent of some 300,000 bottles.
The 72-year-old entrepreneur denies that after the 2004 harvest his staff deliberately mixed up grapes from different vineyards in order to disguise the poor quality of certain prized vintages.
His company Georges Duboeuf Wines — a major exporter to Asia — is charged with “fraud and attempted fraud concerning the origin and quality of wines” along with the former manager of one of its production sites.
The manager, who has since left the firm, faces a maximum of two years in jail and a fine of EUR 37,500 if convicted, while Georges Duboeuf Wines could be fined EUR 187,500.
Widely known as the ‘King of the Beaujolais’ after his marketing genius in the 1960s turned Beaujolais Nouveau into a worldwide hit, Duboeuf admits there was human error during grape-sorting at his Lancie site in autumn 2004, but says none of the affected wine ever went on sale.
“The mistake was made; it was admitted to by the person responsible who has since resigned; and so it has no consequence for production or the consumer,” Duboeuf told AFP after the allegations appeared last August.
The alleged fraud concerned Gamay grapes from nine separate ‘appellations’ — locality-based brands — in the Beaujolais region north of Lyon, which in addition to the ‘Nouveau’ produces red wines bearing the names Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages and the elite Les Crus (Vintages) de Beaujolais.
The 2004 harvest being of variable quality — with some vineyards producing musty-flavoured grapes — it is claimed that the company ensured an acceptable general standard by mixing the good in with the bad.
Though a practice as old as the wine-industry itself, such blending is strictly banned under France’s ‘appellation controlée’ system which is meant to guarantee a bottle’s precise geographical origin.
The alleged fraud was spotted after inspectors compared records of grape deliveries to the Lancie site with the wine contained in vats and discovered discrepancies.
Subject: French news