Fake wine scandal hits Châteauneuf-du-Pape
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