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King of Beaujolais' faces fraud investigation

Published:  23 July, 2008

Joseph Berkmann has angrily denied allegations that Georges Duboeuf topped up his best wines with inferior ones.
The chairman of Berkmann Wine Cellars, the sole UK agent for Duboeuf, issued a statement refuting the allegations, and claimed that national newspaper reports were based on inaccurate' stories in the French press, which had ubsequently
been withdrawn.

With the news that he faces a fraud investigation over alleged bottling/labelling irregularities, Georges Duboeuf tells his side of the story

Following an article published in The Times under the heading 'Wine King - diluted top vintages', and reports of a preliminary investigation for deception launched against Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, we would like to make the following clarifications.

Firstly, the events reported were not deception, but merely the beginning of a process which could have lead to deception.

We would like to state that no consumers have been deceived in any way, because this first step was discovered during the winemaking process and stopped immediately upon detection. Not a single drop of the wine in question was ever bottled.

The term 'deception' should not be used in a matter where there is no damage to consumers. This is just a preliminary investigation, which has not led to any hearing in relation to the committed error (made by just one man, who was our Site Manager) which, again, has no consequences for the consumer.

It has been reported that some 300,000 bottles of Beaujolais have been affected. This is entirely untrue because winemaking was halted immediately upon detection, none of this wine has ever been bottled, stored in barrel or sold.

We regret that we were not informed by our former site manager directly after the Customs and Excise Controllers' visit that he had made serious errors concerning the 2004 harvest. If we had been notified, we would have requested that the INAO agents (who arrived on the same day) not accept the wine until they had checked and regulated all the AOC wines held on site to ensure they were within the rules of the Beaujolais Appellation.

It is also regrettable that the official inspection was conducted before our own controls detected the error, which would have allowed us to downgrade the wines at the earliest opportunity, and thereby keep this incident in its clear and correct proportions.

Unfortunately, this whole affair is due to the actions of our previous site manager, and we can confirm that this was a failed and isolated attempt at fraud, having carried out checks into all working practices at our winemaking facility.

We have the loyal support of all the winegrowers with whom we work, plus that of the president of the Interbeaujolais Association and the president of the Ngociants Association who have declared that Les Vins Georges Duboeuf was clearly a victim in this affair.

We assure you we will fight for the truth to come out.

Georges Duboeuf