Suspicion of counterfeiting in Catalonia

Giant Spanish wine company denies fraudulent labelling and accuses police of acting on behalf of its competitors. Barnaby Eales reports.

The police found faked labels / Credit: Mossos d'Esquadra
The police found faked labels / Credit: Mossos d'Esquadra

Reserva de la Tierra, one of Spain’s largest wine companies today denied reports that it had fraudulently used (DO Denomination de Origen) labels on hundreds of thousands of bottles of bulk wine.

Using its Vina Tridado winery, in Tarragona, Southern Catalonia, the €60m turnover business controls 5,000 vineyards in Rioja, Castilla la Mancha, Ribera del Duero, and several Catalan wine regions. It uses its own and purchased grapes to produces about 40 million bottles of still and sparkling wines and brandy per year, and exports wines under a wide range of brands to 60 countries, principally Germany, the US, China and Brazil 

This week Catalan police (Mossos d’Esquadra) said that, earlier this month, they had seized 750,000 bottles and 3.2 million fake labels during raids of Reserva de la Tierra’s offices and storage units in Tarragona, Southern Catalonia. They estimated that Reserva de la Tierra has produced between eight and 10 million bottles annually of fraudulent wine since 2017. 

No arrests were made but seven suspects were under judicial investigation.

In a statement, the police added that, in addition to the fake labels, Reserva de la Tierra had printed millions of fake quality guarantee labels and copied official guarantee numbers that are found on the back of bottles of DO wine. 

In one instance, the police reported that whilst Reserva de la Tierra had the capacity to produce 5,000 bottles of DO Priorat wine, it had intended to produce 150,000 bottles of DO Priorat this year. 

Speaking to Meininger’s, a Reserva de la Tierra spokesman denied the accusations and said that its Catalan DO wines were produced in Catalonia and not from elsewhere, and that the issue was related to where the bottling of DO wines had taken place. “No, we have not used bulk wine… This a bureaucratic issue, it’s not about the quality of wines. We guarantee the quality of all our wines and their traceability

“We were not notified prior to the raids. There has been no presumption of innocence,”the spokesman added, accusing three Catalan DO wine boards of operating in the interests of rival producers. Reserva de la Tierra also complained that the operation by the Catalan police had a negative impact on its reputation and said that its lawyers were contemplating legal action against the accusations.

To confuse matters further, the three Catalan DO wine boards also issued a joint statement that they doubted the police estimates of the quantity of fraudulently labelled wines.

In a statement Reserva de la Tierra said: “Reserva de la Tierra guarantees the quality of all wines which its makes and sells through more than 100 brands.”

 

List of wines that have been fraudulently labelled according to police and that have been removed from supermarkets in Catalonia:

- HEREDAD MESTRAL 2017 (DOQ. Priorat).
- HEREDAD MESTRAL CIERVO 2017 (DOQ. Priorat).
- VEGA ESCAL 2016 i 2017 (DOQ. Priorat).
- CLOS ROJA  2017 (DOQ. Priorat).
- VINYA CARLES 2017 (DOQ. Priorat).
- HEREDAD CENTUM 2017 (DO Montsant).
- VESPRAL GRAN RESERVA 2014 (DO Terra Alta).
- VESPRAL RESERVA  2016 i 2017 (DO Terra Alta).
- VESPRAL CRIANZA 2016, 2017 i 2018 (DO Terra Alta).
- ARMONICO SELECCIÓN 2017  i 2018 (DO Terra Alta).
- ARMONICO GRAN SELECCIÓN 2016 i 2017 (DO Terra Alta).
- VESPRAL VENDIMIA SELECCIONADA 2018 (DO Terra Alta).
- GRAFICO GRAN SELECCIÓN 2018 (DO Terra Alta).
- GRAFICO SELECCIÓN 2019 (DO Terra Alta).
- SLATES OF BONMONT 2017 (DOQ. Priorat)
- HEREDAD CENTUM 2019 (DO Montsant).
- CARLES HEREDAD 2019 (DO Montsant).
- ESCAL ROJA GRAN RESERVA 2015 (DO Terra Alta).
- HEREDAD CHEROGA 2018  (DO Terra Alta).
- VESPRAL GRAN RESERVA 2015  (DO Terra Alta).
 

 

Barnaby Eales

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