Fake wine scan­dal hits Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Decanter - - A MONTH IN WINE -

RAphAEl MiChEl, ONE of France’s largest bulk wine com­pa­nies, is al­leged to have falsely la­belled large amounts of cheap ta­ble wine as a prod­uct of the famed Rhône ap­pel­la­tion, Châteauneuf-du-pape.

The al­leged fraud is be­lieved to in­volve 30 mil­lion litres of wine, said to have been wrongly la­belled un­der ap­pel­la­tion names in­clud­ing Châteauneuf-du-pape and Côtes du Rhône. To date, no Rhône wine-grow­ers have been im­pli­cated in the prac­tice.

The CEO of Raphaël Michel, Guil­laume Ry­ck­waert, who was taken into cus­tody by the po­lice in Mar­seille on 27 June, has been re­leased on a €1 mil­lion bail fol­low­ing the al­le­ga­tions. Olivier Morice, his lawyer, told French news­pa­per Le Parisien that his client had many ‘jeal­ous ri­vals’.

French me­dia have re­ported that Ry­ck­waert has been sus­pended from con­tact with the com­pany, pend­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. in his ab­sence, Alexan­dre Des­roches has been ap­pointed in the role of in­terim CEO.

Although the al­leged fraud dates back to 2013, the pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion started in 2016 when France’s Na­tional Cus­toms Ju­di­cial Ser­vice (SNDJ) re­port­edly found dis­crep­an­cies and a high num­ber of vi­o­la­tions while con­duct­ing an au­dit at Raphaël Michel.

pro­duc­ers from the Rhône re­gion have joined the case as plain­tiffs.

‘We are now a civil party, and we have been in­formed of the first el­e­ments con­firm­ing the grav­ity of the acts charged against Raphaël Michel,’ said philippe pel­la­ton, pres­i­dent of Syn­di­cat des Côtes du Rhône.

The Rhône syn­di­cate has opened a hot­line for vi­gnerons who sold their crops to Raphaël Michel. The scan­dal was first re­ported by France’s V&S News and has since been cir­cu­lat­ing in the French me­dia.

Raphaël Michel was founded in 1899 in pi­o­lenc, in the Vau­cluse depart­ment. it trades in bulk wine sourced from more than 4,000 grow­ers from the Rhône Val­ley, provence, Chile and Ar­gentina, and deals with 15 wine co­op­er­a­tives of the Rhône.

Ry­ck­waert ac­quired the com­pany in 2002 and has over­seen its rapid ex­pan­sion.

Raphaël Michel, Pi­o­lenc

Above: Guil­laume Ry­ck­waert of Rhône bulk wine com­pany Raphaël Michel

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