Some may look for a fuller category, others a lighter one, but consumers of rosé wine from Provence, France say nothing beats the crisp, fresh and affordable Rosé from the wine growing region where 88% of production is dedicated to Rosé wine. The sales figures continue to soar both in France and abroad. The Conseil Interprofessionnele des Vins de Provence (CIVP) (the wine council), reported that in 2014, exports from the United States jumped 29% in volume, representing 38% of the total volume increase, followed by 14% from Belgium and 8.5% from the U.K.

Rosé Fraud is Threatening the Wine's Reputation

Today, however, the reputation of rosé from Provence is in danger with fraudulent rosé wine entering the wine market in exceedingly rapid proportions.

Wine producers in Provence are understandably concerned about the reputation of their Côte de Provence label, as complaints have been coming in from the United States, South Africa, Ireland and even in France. Millions of consumers are being fooled by false rosé wine with the Provence label; some wines have been adulterated (addition of cheaper products) while others have completely fraudulent labelling, intentionally manufactured to mislead consumers.

Protecting the Origin and Quality of French Wine

Wine producing regions are strictly controlled in France, and the French attach a great deal of importance to wine labels.

When The French National Institute for Product Origin and Quality (INAO), was first set up in 1935, the principal aim was to help consumers distinguish between terroir wine and ordinary wine. Today INAO, a public organization under the wing of the Ministry of Agriculture, is the ruling body for wine, responsible for regulating the characteristics of wine; they have the legal responsibility for wine classification with the aim to fight fraud and to differentiate the qualities of wine. The laws applied by INAO are complex but well established with these main classifications:

  • AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée). Started in 1950, INAO specifications state that wines must be made from authorized grape varieties from a specific area.
  • OAP (appellation d'origine Protégée) or PDO (in English). In 1990 the European Union created a uniform labelling protocol to serve all of Europe. AOP is the European equivalent of AOC.
  • IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) this indicates the geographic origin and quality, indicating that the wine was produced according to strict specifications and certified to having been produced in a defined geographic area.

The first actor for wine protection is INAO, the second is France’s fraud prevention agency DGCCRF, (Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes). It is attached to the French Ministry of Economics and is in charge of tracking down fraud, protecting the interest of the consumer.

DGCCRF Answers Questions on Wine Fraud

As part of the economic protection for consumers, DGCCRF looks for “clear and honest information on wine labels,” making sure that clear and honest information is indicated in the labels. DGCCRF answered these questions on fraud in the wine business in France and supplied the statistics for fraudulent practices for last year:

Alice Alech: How many agents work on the field of Rosé wine control? Or wine in general?

DGCCRF: For DGCCRF, the network consists of 45 specialized inspectors. In addition, you have to take into account the action of INAO, which monitors the conditions of production of wines with AOP and IGP, the quality signs.

Alice Alech: What do the agents control?

DGCCRF: For Rosé, the agents mostly control the rules applicable to the “coupage” (blending of white/red musts) and the specific provisions enacted by the technical specifications for wines with AOP or IGP.

Alice Alech: Are the visits planned or do you arrive without warning?

DGCCRF: The visits are planned in an annual investigation on wine with a specific targeting carried out. The agents can also act on the basis of a compliant from a customer or an operator. In both cases, the visits are not subject to the prior information of the operators.

Alice Alech: The labels are probably the most common cases of fraud, what are the other areas?

DGCCRF: There are also prohibited oenological practices that exist such as the “coupage” of white and red wines in order to sell them as Rosé with AOP.

  • In 2014, for the sector of wine, 4465 operators were considered to be in violation of some practices involving 5186 actions. Most of the operators had been targeted beforehand (complaints, background problems, fraud evidences…), which explains a high anomaly rate of 29%.
  • A total of 138 notices of violation were transmitted to judiciary authorities due to the alteration of products, misleading labels on wines concerning false mentions of regions, internet display or wine menus.
  • A count of 83 administrative measures were taken, which consist of the destruction of wines unfit for human consumption in order to make sure that wines are produced in-line with the standards of production and advertisement.

Wine fraud is not new, even the Romans used to add substances such as lead to make their wine sweeter. Today consumers should protect themselves by studying the labels especially if they want to invest in fine French wine. For example, does the label carry the AOC/AOP logos? Consumers, instead of looking for the type of grapes (not on French labels) should develop a relationship with their wine merchant, one who is serious, one who has ensured the authenticity of their products by maintaining extensive records to prove tractability.