French police counterfeiters carry on cheap plonk as stylish Bordeaux | France

French police have broken up a gang that allegedly produced hundreds of thousands of bottles of fake Bordeaux wine in an elaborate counterfeit operation, prosecutors said Friday.

Agents investigating drug trafficking in southwestern France discovered printing machines used to make labels for the bottles last September, sparking a wider criminal investigation.

It led to the arrest of about 20 people on Monday during an operation in seven different parts of France, three accused of organized fraud, counterfeiting and money laundering.

The prime suspect is a winemaker and broker in the Médoc region near Bordeaux, who bought low-quality wine from other areas, including Spain, and then bottled it as more expensive local produce, a statement from the Bordeaux prosecutor’s office said.

“Large orders” had been placed for the wine “destined for supermarkets and abroad,” the statement added.

Bottling surgeries were performed at night to avoid detection, it said.

“If the charges are proven, we hope that the perpetrators will be severely punished, as these practices undermine the image of Bordeaux wines and those who work correctly and respect the rules,” the local wine industry told Agence France-Presse.

French winemakers, customs and police are constantly on the lookout for cheaters who discount budget splashes as top wines.

In 2016, police arrested a Bordeaux winegrower who mixed poor quality wine with high-end Saint-Émilions, Lalande-de-Pomerols and Listrac-Médocs to sell to major supermarkets under prestigious labels.

The owner of several estates, François-Marie Marret, was jailed and fined €8 million (£6.9 million) after being convicted of bringing in cheap wine at night.

In 2010, 12 French winemakers and dealers were convicted of selling millions of bottles of fake pinot noir to the American firm E&J Gallo.

Before that, in 2006, legendary Beaujolais winemaker Georges Duboeuf was fined more than €30,000 for blending grapes from different vineyards to disguise the poor quality of certain prized vintages.

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