France's consumer fraud agency confirmed Monday that 70,000 hectolitres — the equivalent of 10 million bottles – of Spanish rosé were falsely labelled as French vintages by hundreds of producers in 2016 and 2017.
According to French daily Le Parisien, which first reported the findings, Spanish rosé sold in bulk at the time for just 34 euro cents ($0.40) a litre compared with 75 to 90 cents for French rosé.
“We were alerted to the 'Frenchification' of Spanish wine at the end of 2015,” the consumer agency's Alexandre Chevallier told the paper.
“So we launched an inquiry at all levels, from producers to importers to restaurants and distributors,” he said.
Twenty-two percent of the establishments controlled in 2016 and 15 percent in 2017 were cited for trying to present the foreign wine as French, he explained.
Some blatantly passed it off as French, as was the case for wines sold by the glass in some restaurants, while others were more subtle, putting “Produced in France” on the front label but “European Community wine” on the back.
Misleading wine drinkers is no small matter in France: producers could face fraud lawsuits that carry penalties of up to two years in prison and €300,000 in fines.
French investigators found that millions of bottles of rosé actually contained Spanish wine.