Fake Châteauneuf du Pape Fraud Rocks the French Wine Industry
Châteauneuf du Pape - photo taken by Larry licensed under CC BY 2.0
Raphaël Michel, a large bulk wine company in the South of France has just got caught up in the latest fraud scandal involving large quantities of classic table wine being labelled as Rhone Valley appellations. The story which is starting to take on dimensions of a Rudy Kurniawan-esque fraud befitting the best crime mystery novels revolves around Guillaume Ryckwaert, CEO of Raphaël Michel a prominent bulk wine selling company.
The fraud allegedly involves over 30 million litres of wine which were sold under "Côtes du Rhone" and "Châteauneuf du Pape" status despite being classic table wine.
On the 27th June 2017, Ryckwaert and several high ranking members within Raphaël Michel were arrested by French police in connection with an investigation conducted by France's National Customs Judicial Service. The other members were held for 48 hours and then released while Ryckwaert was indicted on criminal charges of fraud and deception and violations of the consumer and tax codes. He is currently out on bail of one million euros, pending trial.
This scandal is hitting the market at the worst possible time when many producers are suffering from unusually low yields due to a changing climate and cooperatives are having increasing difficulty to pay their members. Rhône winemakers are especially shocked and horrified by this deception and have joined the prosecution as a civil party.
Since the arrest of their CEO, Raphaël Michel have removed Ryckwaert from his official post and have replaced him with an interim CEO. The French supermarket chain Carrefour has suspended its supply contracts with Raphaël Michel.
The investigation is still unfolding and more details are set to emerge in light of this revelation but many believe that Ryckwaert could not have been the sole accomplice in this scandal.