A New Zealand winemaker has pleaded guilty to 36 charges including falsifying tens of thousands of wines’ vintage, origin and grape information in a wine fraud case that was described as “the first case of its kind in New Zealand”.
The case brought by the country’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is understood to be the first case of its kind in New Zealan under the New Zealand 2003 Wine Act, according to New Zealand Herald.
Scott Charles Berry, vineyard manager and winemaker of Southern Boundary Wines Ltd in Waipara, admitted his role in doctoring vintage and origin of wines involving tens of thousands of Sauvignon Blancs harvested from 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages in Marlborough and Waipara.
The wines in question are believed to have been exported to the UK, Ireland, Japan, Fiji, Thailand, and Australia.
Allegations included falsifying wine vintages and doctoring statements over wines’ origin and selling blended wines as single vineyard.
In one fraud charge, Berry was accused of falsifying over 49,905-litres of 2013 sauvignon blanc, while in another charge he’s accused of falsifying over 55,350-litres of 2012 sauvignon blanc.
Between July 2012 and January 2013, he sold 54,000-litres of “untraceable sauvignon blanc” that did not comply with wine laws, says the report.
At the hearing in High Court in Christchurch on July 5, Berry admitted all 36 charges which are two charges of dishonest labelling, two of substituting wine for a dishonest purpose, being party to false applications for export eligibility approval, four charges of sale of non-compliant wine, seven charges of false application for export eligibility statement, six of false application for export eligibility approval, nine charges of exporting non-compliant wine, and five charges of making false applications for VI1 certificate for export.
Winery’s winemaker Rebecca Junell Cope, and operations and export manager Andrew Ronald Moore, have also been accused of being involved in the alleged scandal.
The sentencing will be announced in September.
Last year, another New Zealand winery Yealands was found guilty for doctoring wines destined to the EU following an investigation by MPI.