Châteauneuf-du-Nope: Scandal Over Rhone Valley Fraud Sparks International Outrage

Châteauneuf-du-Nope: Scandal Over Rhone Valley Fraud Sparks International Outrage

The CEO of Raphaël Michel, one of France’s leading bulk wine bottlers has been arrested as the result of an investigation that has sparked outrage across the Rhone Valley. Guillaume Ryckwaert was taken into custody by the French police on June 27 and was released on a one million euro bail after being indicted on criminal charges including numerous violations of the consumer and tax codes as well as fraud.

As reported by Wine Spectator, he was accused of orchestrating a massive fraud which involved the sourcing of over 4 million cases of table wine which were then labelled and sold as if coming from well known Rhone appellations such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône and others.

No Rhone Valley winemakers or growers have been implicated in the deception and in fact, there has been widespread outrage in the region. The President of the Syndicate of Vignerons of the Côtes du Rhône et Côtes du Rhône-Villages, told Wine Spectator that they had been aware of the undergoing investigation since last fall and had collaborated with the authorities in verifying sales contracts and other information regarding Raphaël Michel.

French supermarket chain Carrefour has broken its relationship with the bottler, suspending all supply deals. According to The Spirit Business, Raphaël Michel runs six bottling sites for the retailer. Other companies have also cancelled supply contracts.

Along with Ryckwaert, other managers were detained and later released without charges, however, it is suspected that the scale of the fraud is too big to be a one-man operation. The investigation is still progressing and as reported by Decanter Magazine, concerned Rhone producers have joined the prosecution as a civil party.

“We have been informed of the first elements confirming the gravity of the acts charged against Raphaël Michel”, said Philippe Pellaton. Numerous details of the investigation remain confidential and the fraud is said to have occurred between October 2013 to March 2017.

Guillaume Ryckwaert acquired Raphaël Michel in 2002, the company was founded in 1989 and it sources bulk wine from 15 cooperatives in the Rhone Valley, as well as from producers in Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon, Chile and Argentina.

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