NZ winery charged with wine fraud in landmark case
Southern Boundary Wines Ltd, based in Waipara in New Zealand, and three of its directors are facing a total of 156 charges of alleged wine fraud, having been accused of selling tens of thousands of bottles overseas with false information regarding vintage, variety and origin.
Southern Boundary Wines, based in Waipara in North Canterbury, was founded in the early 1980s and owns five wine labels: Waipara Springs, Premo, Waipara Downs, Bascand and The Springs.
The case was brought by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and is the first time charges have been laid under New Zealand’s Wine Act.
The winery’s three directors including vineyard manager and winemaker Scott Charles Berry, winemaker Rebecca Junell Cope, and operations and export manager Andrew Ronald Moore are alleged to be behind the fraud.
The company and the three suspects were charged in February but an interim suppression order posed by a judge prevented reporting on the case until this Thursday (03/08/2017).
The suspects were alleged to have mislabeled the wines’ vintages and origin, passed off blended wines as single vineyard wines, as well as tampering with and destroying winemaking records. The alleged misconducts were believed to relate to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from Waipara and Marlborough in 2012 and 2013.
By law, winemakers are required to keep production records, but the MPI has claimed that some of Southern Boundary Wines’ records were found in a rubbish sack.
The exact quantity of the mislabelled wines remains unknown, however, in a statement, New Zealand Winegrowers reports that ‘it is believed to be a tiny fraction of the national harvest in each of the two affected years’.
The wines in question were not sold in the domestic market, but had been exported to the UK, Japan, Fiji, Thailand and Australia, according to the report.
It is believed that there is no health risk associated with any of the wine – it is a mislabeling and record keeping issue.
“The New Zealand wine industry is highly regarded around the world and we cannot let the alleged actions of one winery damage a reputation that we have all worked so hard to build,” Jeffrey Clarke, New Zealand Winegrowers acting CEO, said in a statement.
“We have been informed about the matter and the allegations and we know that MPI has been investigating carefully for some time. New Zealand wineries and grape growers are committed to the highest standards of product integrity and quality, and there are very good systems in place in New Zealand to ensure this. The investigation proves the systems in place work and it is appropriate that this matter is before the courts,” he added.
The defendants are expected to enter their pleas on 30 November.