French traders sentenced for mislabeling wine

Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:03pm EST
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By Nicolas Fichot

CARCASSONNE, France (Reuters Life!) - A dozen wine producers and traders were found guilty of having supplied an American trader with mislabeled "pinot noir" wines and six were handed a suspended prison sentence.

In a rare case pitting some local French producers from the southwest of the country against big U.S. traders E. & J. Gallo, the president of the criminal court in this medieval walled town said on Wednesday that "there has been fraud."

In 2008, French customs found that during three years some 13.5 million liters of mislabeled wine had been sold to Gallo.

The producers and traders were accused of deliberately mislabeling the wine with a more expensive variety of grape.

The ordinary wines from the region sell at some 45 euros ($62) per 100 liters against 97 euros for Pinot Noir -- well known abroad for its use in Burgundy wines and prized by American drinkers who favor single-grape wines over blended wines like Bordeaux.

Claude Courset of the Ducasse wine traders was sentenced to a six-month suspended prison sentence and has to pay a fine of 45,000 euros. The prosecutor asked for a firm prison sentence.

Five other people were sentenced to fines of between 3,000 and 6,000 euros and the remaining six for less than that.

The Sieur d'Arques trading firm of Limoux was ordered to pay 180,000 euros in penalties.   Continued...

<p>A wine selector tastes red wine in the village of Brestovitsa, about 150km (93miles) east of the capital Sofia, December 8, 2009. REUTERS/Oleg Popov</p>