Saturday, 16 July 2011

Petrus barcode switch 'tip of iceberg'

  • Monday 6 June 2011

The woman who tried to buy bottles of Petrus worth €2,300 for €2.50 each by switching barcodes represents the tip of the iceberg, fraud experts say.


Leclerc: 'real problem'

The 23-year-old, who has not been named, was caught last month in a Leclerc supermarket in Trélisssac, Dordogne, having changed barcodes, replacing the indicated price of about €2,300 per bottle with €2.50 labels, according to Agence France Presse.

But for every person caught, many more get away with such label switching, French supermarket executives told

‘This is a real problem,’ David Bruguiere, wine buyer for Leclerc said.

Although a bottle of Petrus should be easily recognisable, most cashiers cannot tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine. If dishonest clients unpeel the price label from a bottle and put it on a more expensive one, they can get away with it, he said.

Such label switching is particularly easy during the foires aux vins, annual wine fairs at French supermarkets.
During the foires bottles are sometimes left unlabelled, and unused barcodes are left unsupervised, a representative for the supermarket chain Auchan said.

‘We are working on preventive measures,’ said Bruguiere, ‘but we are not sure what we can do yet.’

Bordeaux Wine Trading fraudster convicted

  • Wednesday 13 July 2011

The managing director of a company selling non-existent Bordeaux en primeur has been found guilty of fraud.

lafite box

Pic: £1.2m of orders were not fulfilled

The verdict was returned on Paul Craven, of Bordeaux Wine Trading Ltd, at St Albans Crown Court. The jury returned a unanimous verdict after a trial lasting just over three weeks.

Craven set up Bordeaux Wine Trading in July 2006. BWTC sold £1.2m of 2005 First Growths en primeur but never placed any orders with negociants in Bordeaux.

Instead investors’ money was spent on cars, Cartier watches, lavish holidays and cocaine. Only £12,200 has been recovered – £200 in a bank account and £12,000 in cash under Craven’s bed.

Craven will be sentenced on Thursday along with Oseghale Hayble, who was also a defendant in this trial until he was taken ill.

In December 2010 Hayble was found guilty of fraud for his part in running International Wine Commodities Ltd.

Prior to BWTC Craven had worked briefly at another en primeur company, the Bordeaux Wine Company, owned by Frederick Achom and Anthony Grant, both of whom have been convicted of fraud and are barred from being company directors until July 2013.

Hertfordshire Police carried out the investigation.

Major Chinese retailer ditches Left Bank Bordeaux

  • Friday 15 July 2011

One of China's largest wine retailers has announced it will stop promoting the classified estates of the Medoc as their prices make them 'too dangerous'.


Aussino Cellars, which has 200 stores in 100 cities across China, has cancelled a dinner with the Union des Grands Crus and has said it will promote the Right Bank instead of Left Bank wines.

Grace Cai of Aussino told, ‘The prices of the Grand Cru wines are too high because of the booming wine market in China, and it is very dangerous to keep on promoting them.

‘The market is further complicated by forgeries, and by large numbers of importers competing over the same brands. Aussino wants to work with stable and loyal partners, and find good value, high quality wines for the consumer in China.’

The company was planning to hold a wine dinner with the UGC in November during a wine festival at its headquarters in Guangzhou, but has now decided to not run the event.

‘As our consumers become more and more educated about wine, they will realise that they are buying over-heated brands, and we want to offer them wines with stability,’ Cai said.

Aussino is not intending to stop buying Bordeaux, and confirms that consumer demand is still there, but it is shifting its focus to the Right Bank, and more specifically to Pomerol, concentrating on specially-created brands by J-P Moueixand Thienpont, as well as the traditional chateaux.

There is no further information at this stage as to what the new brands will be. Cai confirmed, 'We want exclusive brands. We don't want to compete for the big chateaux brands with other importers, which then further drives up prices.'

UGC president Sylvie Cazes said, ‘We are sorry to hear Aussino doesn’t want to organise the tasting with us this year, but we are committed to China, make at least two trips a year there and would be happy to work with Aussino in the future.’

The owner of Aussino, Robert Shen (sometimes known as Robert Shum in Cantonese) was No 17 in the Decanter Power List 2011 – up from No 28 in 2009.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

An evening with Roger Ravoir at Maison du Vin

Roger Ravoireis not unusual – he is a Frenchman with a passion for wine. He makes red, white and rose at Ravoire et Fils but that passion drives him further still.

But what singles him out from his fellow countrymen is that he also seeks it out at small producers ranging from the Cotes de Provence to the Cotes du Rhone and, when he likes it, he bottles it and puts the good Ravoire name on the case. That mark of quality means the small producer can then tap into Ravoire’s marketing expertise and the wines can be offered to a wider audience.

For the consumer it means we get a decent bottle of wine from any one of hundreds of quality producers, covering an area half the size of Kent, with real character and personality at a price we are all happy to pay in these day s of austerity.

The 09 vintage is a case in point. Roger selected two wines local to his home at the foot of the Luberon Massif, at the crossroads of the Rhône Valley and Provence, to enter the latest Decanter Magazine tasting.

The Olivier Ravoire Cairanne took four stars and the Olivier Ravoire Plan de Dieu was awarded three. But both Cotes du Rhone-Villages wines have that certain je ne sais quoi.

Ravoire said: ‘They are excellent examples of what we can achieve in Provence. The wines were produced just eight kilometres apart and they are totally different. That’s because the terroir and the producer are different.

‘It’s important to me that the identity of each wine grower is preserved. I hope that the quality and competitive price of these wines will help to pull people away from low quality supermarket wine. I work hard to find these wines and it’s very exciting when you come across a small vintage that really delivers that we can sell at a good price for our customers.’

The two award-winning wines, and the rest of Roger Ravoire’s range, are now being exclusively stocked in the UK by Maison du Vin, the niche wine merchant perched halfway up Moor Hill in the beautiful village of Hawkhurst in Kent.

Managing director John Toogood is a big fan of Ravoire’s. John said: ‘These are easy-to-drink wines that are great value. We’re so confident you’ll enjoy them that we’re offering a money-back guarantee if you don’t like them.

‘We believe that wine should always give 100 per cent satisfaction but these Rhone wines really are superb and go with any type of food.’

All of the Ravoir range of superb wines are exclusively available from Maison du Vin

Friday, 25 March 2011

The socking truth about Oddbins!

Apart from the colossal amount of money owed by Oddbins to small independent wine producers across Europe. The beleaguered wine company owes £5.5m to HMRC in unpaid UK wine duty.

So would someone please tell me how they have managed to defer that amount of tax?

If all that is wine? It amounts to an estimated 275,000 cases!

Mind you Oddbins own and control their own bonded warehouse in Wimbledon.

That might have something to do with it?!

Oddbins on the skids!

BREAKING NEWS: Oddbins The high street wine giant has gone into administration!

Once the Wine darling of the high street. Oddbins has struggled in recent years to regain its position as the UK’s top independent.

The company was purchased in 2008 by UK based company Ex Cellar from French giant Castel. Castel's steward ship of Oddbins was widely regarded as a disaster and hopes were high when it came back into UK hands.

Here is how it was reported in Independent Retail news by: Rosie Davenport 4th August 2008

The Oddbins chain has been sold to specialist wine and food retailer Ex Cellar for an undisclosed sum in a surprise deal announced today. Ex Cellar was founded in 1999 by Henry Young and Simon Baile, the son of former Oddbins managing director Nick Baile, who headed up the company in 1973.

Currently, Ex Cellar has two retail outlets in Ashstead and Paris.

The Oddbins senior management team, including Ayo Akintola, HR Director, will remain in their positions. Previous managing director and deputy managing director, Fabrice Bidault and Eudes Morgan, will be replaced by Young as chairman and Baile as managing director.

Baile said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us – Oddbins is a renowned name on the British high street. Our retail background and my knowledge of what used to make Oddbins great will help drive the passion and innovation back into this business. There will be a short period during which we review the current structure and develop plans for the future. This is a cash positive business with plenty of stock, great locations throughout the UK and passionate staff.”

Reading that you have to ask yourselves what the hell happened?

But safe to say, that in the last few years ‘Every wine that has been bought in a UK supermarket is a bottle of wine that has NOT been bought from Oddbins!

Just goes to show that ‘Success is a journey. Not a destination.

Who’s next?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

You pay £14 for a bottle of wine. The vineyard gets £1. Who wins?

The UK goverments measure, and rises in the price of glass and fuel to make and transport bottles, are giving the trade a hangover!

Over a barrel: the price of a bottle shoots from £1 to £14 by the time it hits your table.

Next time you are thinking of choosing the £14 bottle of house red in your favourite restaurant, you may want to reconsider once you know how much the producer got for the wine itself.

Recently one of Bordeaux's more colourful wine producers lifted the lid on how a bottle of wine bought for £1 from a cooperative producer ends up costing £14 or £15 in a UK restaurant.

In a bid to highlight the detrimental impact a recent duty rise is having on the wine trade, Gavin Quinney, the owner of Château Bauduc, set out exactly who gets what out of the £14 you pay for a bottle of house wine.

The figures will certainly surprise many regular restaurant goers, or home wine buyers. After storage and distribution costs are deducted, the restaurant and wine merchant have added their mark-up - and more importantly the government has taken its duty and VAT - only £1 is left to pay the producer who worked all year to make and bottle the wine.

Quinney claims the increase in duty on wine - now makes the UK easiley the most expensive place in Europe to buy wine. "The pound has slumped against the euro while the cost of wine at source, the glass to make the bottles and fuel prices have all shot up - and the government added further duty when prices were already under [this] huge pressure."

It is widely expected that the chancellor will put at least 10p on a bottle of wine in the forthcoming budget.

"Duty on a bottle of wine is now £1.61, with VAT on the duty as well as the wine. There is no duty at all in Italy, Spain and Germany, while France fleeces its "citoyens" for all of 2p a bottle. If you think that at least £2 of each bottle of wine being sold in the UK is now tax, this leaves very little margin for the maker."

He suggests that if there were no UK duty, and if the wine merchant and the restaurant were to make the same percentage margin, the price of the wine - either at retail price or in the restaurant - would be halved.

"That's why wine served in Europe, at this level, is often a fraction of the UK price. The UK has long had a vibrant wine sector which is going to be under threat unless Darling rethinks this crazy taxation policy," he warns.

Another man who has noticed the impact recent price increases have had on the wine trade is Richard Siddle. The editor of Harpers, the trade magazine for wine retailers, says the industry was working on tiny margins and now it's suffering even more.

"The slide of the pound against the euro and the duty increases have been the final nail in the coffin. If you go down the aisles in the supermarkets you will think the 14p duty increase has been largely lost in the system. However, supermarkets still see cheap alcohol as a way of bringing customers through the doors, as long as the government lets them get away with it," he says.

"They are very clever at giving the impression prices haven't risen but, away from the brand names that continue to be discounted, prices are on the up."

The Guardian's wine critic, Victoria Moore, says the duty rise and pound shift has left bargain hunters looking at an ever-decreasing stock to pick from.

"Finding good wines under £5 is beginning to get harder. Competition, shoppers' reluctance to spend much, and supermarket tactics in persuading producers to accept smaller and smaller margins have until recently kept prices right down, even as duty rose," she says.

"In the past, supermarkets tended to absorb duty hikes (or at least force the poor wine producers to do so, thus safeguarding their own profits) but this year 14p a bottle has often proved tricky to magic away.

"I've seen some £5 wines go up to £6 as retailers, forced at last to lift prices, sighed with relief and took the decision to claw back some of the money they were losing thanks to the strength of the euro and inflation."

She maintains the best overall value is to be had when spending between £6 and £9. "This is the point at which an appreciable slice of your money goes into the actual wine," she says.

Saturday, 8 January 2011


Don't worry we all have at some stage!

So how is it that so many of us get taken in? Well here are some examples which feature some of the most well known brands.

Blue Nun.

Was created by German company H. Sichel Sohne in 1923. I was the worlds first mass marketed wine and at it's peak in the 1980's sold 1.25 million cases in the US alone!

Take a look at the picture above. It leads the unwary wine drinker to believe so much without putting anything into print. So what do we see? First of all we see a Nun. Everybody trusts a Nun! We see her carrying a basket of grapes in a vineyard. This infers that that the grapes are hand picked in small quantities by hand in a vineyard! Not only that but this back breaking labour of love is being carried out by a Nun! All of this conveys quality and trust.

But it couldn't be further from the truth. It wont surprise you to know that a no stage has there ever been a Nun involved in the production of this wine. The grapes used are mass harvested by machine from huge vineyard's all over Germany and the wine is produced factory style. How else could they keep up with such huge demand? Now if all that was depicted on the label would you still by it? No one is saying that the over all standard of the wine is below par it's just that the quality is very subtly over stated.

Here's another good one. Matues Rose.

Another one of the worlds first and biggest mass marketed wines.

Once again look a the label. The picture of this grand palace infers by association that the building sits on the vineyards where the wine is made rather like the grand Chateau of Bordeaux. But no. This is the Palace Mateus. There is a connection but as with Blue Nun the wine is mass produced factory style.

The flagon shaped bottle is another clever ploy. There is an joke in the wine business that says when everybody had a bed side lamp sales of Mateus Rose went down by 50% in the UK!

Do you see a recurring them here? All of the truly great wines of the world have a long and proud tradition. Most are made in relatively small quantities in an unmechanised way. Many of the grapes are still picked by hand and there is much human intervention especially in France and Italy. Now when you invent a wine with the sole intent of mass production you don't have any of that legacy to help sell your product and it would be illegal to make it up! But by using clever imagery you can infer all of these things.

First of all there needs to be a sense of History because in our minds history gives us a sense of tradition and that in turn creates trust and quality in our minds.

'Small' and 'limited quantity are real triggers for giving us a feeling of quality.That we are buying something special. A picture of someone picking grapes by hand and putting them in a wicker basket conveys all of this without saying a word.

Remember all of the big branded wines rely totally on huge marketing budgets to sell them and this cost comes directly out of the cost of each bottle.

Last but not least Piat D'or.

Remember the very famous TV adverts in which they state very proudly 'The French adore

Le Piat D'or' Well it might surprise you to learn that most of France has never heard of Piat D'or!

Once again mass marketed and aimed almost exclusively at the UK market.

Take a look at the advert from 1986 on YOUTUBE. No matter what you think of the wine the marketing is brilliant!

So the next time you are out buying wine beware! Things are often no what they seem?