Sacre bleu. An alleged massive wine fraud involving blendings with lesser wines has shaken Burgundy, where investigators are focused on one of the region's largest dealers.
According to public prosecutor Eric Lallement, an 18-month investigation revealed an alleged fraud involving 1.5 million bottles of premium Burgundy wine, perpetrated between 2006 and 2008.
About 500,000 bottles worth a total of $3.4 million were allegedly blended with wines from lesser appellations in the region, beyond the 15 percent allowed by law.
"To a lesser degree, table wine was also used," Lallement said.
Another 1.1 million bottles allegedly were labeled with false vintages.
"If they ran out of Meursault 2008, the Meursault 2010 was transformed into 2008 on the label," said Lallement.
They also added "old vines" when it was not the case.
Six managers of the respected Maison Laboure-Roi, including its two elderly owners, Louis and Armand Cottin, were taken into police custody for questioning last week.
"They were brought in for questioning and released, but no formal charges have been made at this time," Lallement said.
France's fraud prevention agency grew suspicious after a routine audit showed little difference in the volume of grape must entering the cellars and the volume of wine leaving. Normally, a certain amount of volume is lost in the course of wine making.
Louis Cottin, 81, and Armand, 82, as well as the company managers admitted the discrepancy during questioning, but blamed it on "equipment and computer errors," according to the prosecutor.
Laboure-Roi sells 10 to 11 million bottles of wine a year and exports 75 percent of its wine around the world.
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