SOUTH AFRICA: US asks for global assistance over Burgundy wine fraud scandal

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United States officials have made an informal request to other New World wine producing countries to look into the possibility that fraudulent Burgundy wines have been imported into their markets.

A US communiqué was dispatched late last week to among others, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, to be on the lookout for the fraudulent Burgundian wine that was exposed late last year.

Gunter Muller, deputy director international trade in the South African department of agriculture in Pretoria said he received the communiqué from one of his counterparts in Washington.

It stated that US Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials had met with the agricultural counsellor and a trade attaché from the French Embassy, "to discuss the fraudulent activities of French wine makers" (blending low quality wines and labelling them as a high quality Burgundy).

The US statement said they had asked the French to provide them with information and to verify two media articles relating to the matter.

"The French officials indicated that some of the brands involved are exported to the United States, but so far did not have any specific evidence that the specific wine in question was exported to the United States," the US official said.

"While we are waiting for additional information from the French officials, because France's Department of Justice is currently conducting an investigation into the matter, it is unlikely that the French will release additional detailed information until the investigation is complete; if even then," the communiqué stated.

They asked whether any of the governments in the countries to which they had sent the communiqué had had dealings with the French government about the subject, so that they could compare notes and plan their next step.

Muller said today he had been in touch with his department's directorate of plant, health and quality, which was responsible for the testing of foreign wines imported into South Africa, so that they could look into the matter.

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