Buyer Beware - That Châteauneuf-du-Pape you are drinking could be a fake!
According to a report issued by the French anti-fraud agency, the Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF), one of France's leading bulk wine bottlers has been accused of fraud, deception and tax violations. Other sources believe the unnamed company in the report is Raphaël Michel. The company is accused of using lesser quality grapes and passing them off as more prestigious appellation-level wines like Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône-Villages, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As much as 15% of the area's wine produced between 2013 and 2016 could be affected.
A routine tax audit first alerted authorities to possible illegalities, and as they dug deeper into the wine bottler's operations, they discovered vats of wine fraudulently labeled, among other violations. The company's chairman, Guillaume Ryckwaert, and other managers were taken into custody last June. Ryckwaert was charged with fraud, deception, and violations of the consumer and tax codes. He has since been released on bail and not allowed to work for Raphaël Michel any longer. If found guilty, he will face up to two years of jail time and a $370,000 fine. Since the arrests, Raphaël Michel has sought protection from bankruptcy courts and is reportedly in negotiations for a takeover.
Time to check the cellar! As a négociant, Raphaël Michel sources wines, creates blends and oversees maturation then markets these wines to other merchants, such as bottlers, who package and distribute the products. So, we can't know which wines are impacted just by looking at the label. For this reason, He and She on Wine are only buying these vintages where the label states "mise en bouteille au domain", meaning it was bottled where the grapes were grown.