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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Thursday, 22 April 2010 03:32

After Gallo, Hardys and Pernod Ricard Duped

After the news of Gallo being taken for a Bicycletta ride, the news of a couple of other big boys- Hardys and Pernod Ricard has been doing the round. The producers in Nashik and most hapless consumers in India may shrug it off as a daily happening in the Indian market, but as in the case of Gallo, the watchful eyes of the watchdog brought the guilty person to book.

The case is similar to Gallo- both were duped in getting cheaper grapes than the specified Burgundy grapes-Gallo was buying Pinot Noir, whereas Andrew Hashim, the former managing director of Rivers Wines, a South Australia wine company was supplying the white wine Burgundy grape-Chardonnay. He was mixing it with Sultana, a variety costing a fourth of the ordered grapes.

He was convicted last week by an Adelaide (scene of recent ethnic violence against Indians) Magistrate on 34 counts of falsification of records. The company Rivers Wines pleaded guilty in 2007 to 97 counts. Andrew Hashim has been convicted in the Magistrates Court on 34 counts of falsifying records.

The scam was eventually uncovered in 2003, when thousands of liters of grape juice sent to major winemakers, including Hardys, was quarantined by the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation after buyers raised doubts over the variety. At the time, Chardonnay grapes were selling for $1000 a ton, while Sultana grapes were worth $250 a ton, according to media reports.

Rivers Wines faces the maximum penalty of $1.4 million, while Hashim could pay up to $102,000.The case has taken seven years, but the largest case of wine deception in Australian history has finally reached a conclusion. The court found that large quantities of grape juice and wine were sold as chardonnay during the 2003 vintage to more than 10 companies including Hardy's, now known as Constellation Australia, and Orlando, now owned by Pernod Ricard.

After one buyer raised doubts about the variety, the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation conducted a  paper trail search since 2003 and discovered the wine was mostly sultana based and not Chardonnay which was promised. ‘We discovered what the court called an 'enormous' amount of documents proving Rivers Wines' records had been falsified," says a AWBC compliance manager.

Further evidence from grape growers who supplied Rivers Wines revealed many had supplied sultana grapes in good faith but the winery had recorded their receipt as chardonnay. The price for chardonnay fruit at the time was about $1000 a ton and sultanas about $250 a ton with wines subsequently produced reflecting the price differences.

Sources describe the case as "the most significant deception ever" in Australia's wine industry. The maximum penalty on each count is $15,000 for a company and $3000 for individuals. Sentencing is expected by the end of the month.

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.


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