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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Wednesday, 18 August 2010 10:39

Chardonnay Cheater of Australia Sentenced

The recent judgment pronounced in the case of a Riverland wine company and its managing director where both have been fined more than A$351,000 for falsely selling Sultanas as Chardonnay grapes should send warning bells to the lawmakers in India that they need to move fast to regulate the industry to prevent such frauds in the nascent Indian industry.

In 2003, Rivers Wines and its Managing Director Andrew Hashim falsified records to pass off sultanas as chardonnay grapes by mixing the juice, to companies like Hardys and Orlando which suspecting a fraud, stopped buying the grapes and reported the matter to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation for investigations. At that time Chardonnay was selling at around A$1000 a tonne, four times more than the eating Sultana grape variety.

The Adelaide Magistrates Court held the company guilty on 79 counts and Hashim was convicted on 34 counts after a lengthy trial. The company was fined A$300,000 whereas Hashim has been fined A$51,000 and the court costs. However, he is not expected to pay up as he is bankrupt.

The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation said the offence was discovered swiftly and it was able to contact the businesses that bought the grapes, quarantine them before they were sold in the market. The auxiliary magistrate said Hashim's offence had serious consequences for the wine industry but he had shown no remorse.

The details of the case were already published in the April 2010 edition of delWine:

As reported earlier, in India, there are no strict regulations on growing or selling the grapes. With the newly formed Indian Grape Processing Board, it is hoped that the laws would soon be in place. The unscrupulous suppliers or the producers get away with ‘murder’ while the quality suffers terribly. With India ready to join OIV, the Board will be in a good position to get into this area. It may be interesting to note that the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation has been extremely vigilant. The same should be expected from the Board or any other company formed to regulate and monitor the quality and specifications and be strict and vigilant and that we shall get rid of the problem of mislabeling.

It may be pertinent to point out that for years Indage vintners has been mentioning on the back label of their Riviera table wine, Pinot Noir as one of the grape varietals used. There is no way to check the authenticity of the statement. With the Chairman of the Board being the chairman of the winery too, it will be a piquant situation and things are expected to come to head sooner or later. False-labeling of wines is not an uncommon phenomenon in the Indian wine industry.

However, this is not the first case of big producers being duped globally. Last year saw the conviction of producers and exporters from South of France for supplying cheaper grapes as Pinot Noir to Gallo (it was reported by delWine). The curious case of Brunello di Montalcino where a few wineries were blocked from releasing their wine for months as the authenticity of grapes was in doubt still rankles in one’s mind.

It does bring to mind the importance of wine laws to be in place on an urgent basis.

Riverland Grape Prices Crash

In another related story about Riverland, the wine grape growers in this part of South Australia farmers are feeling the pinch as they earn the lowest prices in ten years.

Research collated by the Riverland Wine Grape Growers Associations predicts this year's grower returns are at $268 a tonne down from a record high of $673 in 2002.

The association's chief executive Chris Byrne says many growers are finding the situation untenable. ‘It is simply not sustainable, and it's really just a reflection of the hardship that most people have had to endure.’


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