Fifty-three French winemakers may face fines or prison after admitting that they illegally added extra sugar to their wines to increase alcohol levels.
 
In a trial this week, the wine producers, all from the Beaujolais region, said that they had expected to gain official approval to increase alcohol levels by 2.5 degrees due to bad weather before the 2004 harvest. They therefore added the extra sugar.
 
Approval was not given, however, which made adding extra sugar illegal, the court heard.
 
"It [the approval] had to be validated by a council of European Ministers, which meant waiting four weeks but the winemaking could not wait," Michel Desilets, lawyer for 41 of the producers, told reporters yesterday (26 January). 
 
As part of the same trial, four local supermarkets are also being investigated for illegally buying and selling about 600 tonnes of sugar between 2004 and 2007. The verdict is expected tomorrow (28 January).