Giscours to appeal guilty verdict on chaptalisation

Bordeaux third growth Château Giscours has said it will appeal a decision by a French court after its managing director was handed a suspended prison sentence for chaptalising a portion of its 2016 vintage due to an unfortunately mistimed communication.

Château Giscours has been found guilty of illegal chapitalisation

Almost 400 hectolitres of wine from the estate were seized by officials in March, on suspicion that sugar had been illegally added to part of the 2016 vintage, due to an unfortunate chain of events.

The wine in question included Merlot must that was chaptalised to boost its alcohol content, a practice common in poor years when the ripening of grapes is less reliable. Chaptalisation is not illegal in France, but it is strictly controlled and in the case of the 2016 vintage there was never authorisation for producers in Margaux to chaptalise their Merlot.

Giscours denied the allegations, claiming that it had “no intention” to commit fraud and that its technical team believed “in good faith” that authorisation for chaptalising Merlot would be given.

In a letter seen by the drinks business the president of the Organisme de défense et de gestion (ODG) Margaux admits that on 10 October 2016 authorisation was given to producers to chaptalise their wines by 1˚, but it did not state that Merlot was excluded from this permission.

A further email sent just 45 minutes later stated that Merlot was to be excluded – a fact confirmed on 12 October by the INAO – but in the meantime a portion of musts at Château Giscours had already been chapitalised.

Sugar was only added to 0.6% of the harvested grapes, affecting just two vats.

Once the error was realised, the cuve containing the chaptalised wine was separated from the others and has not been bottled or distributed in any way.

The château blamed “cumbersome bureaucracy and faulty communication of information” for the unintentional error.

However this week a French court rejected the estate’s defence, handing Alexander Van Beek, the managing director of Château Giscours, a three-month suspended sentence, while the estate itself was fined €200,000. The court also ordered the destruction of 39,700 litres of seized wine, the equivalent of 53,000 bottles, worth €2.3 million.

Confirming that it plans to appeal the court’s decision, Château Giscours said in a statement: “SE Château Giscours has been reproached for irregular chaptalization operations on two vats. These operations are accounted for, on the one hand, by an error committed by the Organisme de Défense et de Gestion de la profession (ODG), who acknowledged the fact that they had sent an erroneous e-mail; and on the other hand, by a misreading of a hand-chalked slate indicating the permitted quantity of sugar that can be added.

“SE Château Giscours solemnly reaffirms that it was the result of human error, without any fraudulent intention – just an unfortunate chain of events brought about by cumbersome bureaucracy and faulty communication of information.

“The chaptalized musts in question were put aside, separated from the final blend, and were not used at all for distribution to the market. As a result, SE Château Giscours has naturally decided to appeal the court decision.”

Click through to the following page to read the full statement on the court’s decision issued by Château Giscours yesterday.

One Response to “Giscours to appeal guilty verdict on chaptalisation”

  1. Hervé LALAU says:

    Could anyone explain to me why Giscours thought they had to chaptalise in such a ripe year as 2016 – in an “exceptional vintage”, on such an “exceptional terroir”?
    Or do the wine and terroir only become exceptional AFTER chaptalisation?
    BTW, Drinks Business might want to remind its readers that Giscours has already been condemned in 1998 and 2008, for adding water, or milk, or wood staves in the wine, and blending AOC Médoc wine with Margaux wine.

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