Mutton dressed as Lamb...?


I’m new to the site, so hello. I joined because of a query that had me so intrigued I had had to join a dedicated community of top people in the know, as the rest of the Internet draws a total blank…

Here’s my quandry:

My Spanish brother-in-law is a lorry driver, and he frequently travels to France, where I grew up. The perennial debate we have about which of our two countries produces the most wine is often followed by one of us stating that ‘quality not quantity’ is what matters, depending on who wins the first bit of the debate. It’s all good fun.

He recently returned from a trip to France with this humdinger. He met another lorry driver who had a tanker full of Spanish wine, which he was delivering to France. There, he claimed, the French bottled it and sold it as French wine. This, he claimed, had been going on for a while, as he made the trip often.

Alarm bells: if this is happening, it is surely illegal, isn’t it? If not illegal, it is certainly against any French appelation rules I’m aware of.

The problem is it actually seems pretty plausible: we know Spain is producing more and more wine, that it has more crop than most (if not all) other countries and that recent investment and weather has increased productivity. If Spanish wine makers are worried they cannot sell or that too much wine will reduce the value of their bottles, it makes sense that they may try to sell it off to French wine makers who could sell it as cheap vin de table to the french people…

My questions: has anyone else heard of this? Is it common? Is it legal? Is it all BS?

Thanks for your thoughts, this one has me totally stumped!!!


Hi Luke
There certainly are legitimate instances of wine being shipped for bottling at destination- it happens in UK with some bulk wines from the new world, and indeed there is a decent argument that it’s more environmentally friendly, as the bottles don’t have to be shipped as well, but rather filled in the UK.

So no EU law against it.

For DOP and IGP, there is always a requirement for the wine to be from the region it is claimed to be from. I’m not sure on VDT but believe it has to state country.

So I believe it would be legal to ship in bulk and bottle in France, as long as the wine was labelled as Spanish and didn’t contravene any local appellation rules about bottling in the region itself. Any Spanish wine shipped and bottled in France as French wine (or even blended into a French wine) would be illegal. It is quite uncommon to see Spanish wines in France from my somewhat limited experience (one may read something into that comment). I’m a little surprised your B-in-L is telling you this, as if his view of the usage is true, he is a party to fraud and could risk a criminal conviction - and indeed he’s now taken away the defence of not knowing what the wine was being shipped for.

There are certainly criminal cases that are brought very year or two, of such illegal shipments. I think there was one in Italy a few months ago.


My apologies - and a warm welcome to the site, hope you enjoy it here.

Thanks Ian

Yes, he seemed pretty certain they were bottling it as French wine… dubious indeed. It could just be a bored/inebriated tanker driver trying to sound interesting - I mean how much is the delivery guy going to know about exactly what happens to the exact wine he delivered once it arrives at the bottling plant…

Not that I want to get my BiL in trouble, though it would be a good way of me winning the debate this year :wink:


As mentioned, it can be bottled wherever but if it’s really Spanish juice being sold as French wine, someone is going to be in trouble if the authorities find out.

But the reason there was so much Arien in Spain is because Franco had a deal with France where he sold them the juice for distillation into brandy. There’s still a lot of unwanted juice in France so I wonder why they’d be importing the stuff, but maybe they’re getting a great price.

I have seen a couple of sparkling wines without any AOP or IGP region, or even Vin de France on the label that were labeled “Produced in France.” Every other sparkling wine I have seen from France has had “Produce of France” on the label. I was told by the importer at the time that the juice for the wine came from Spain and was bottled in France.

When Spain joined the EU, French farmers barricaded highways to prevent Spanish tanker trucks with wine from passing, as I recall.

It wouldn’t surprise me if it went into cheap wine labelled as French. Or it might be served by the carafe in French cafes as a house wine without identification.

Footnote: I saw a tanker truck from a Bordeaux transport firm driving up the gravel road to a winery in Barolo three years ago. Perhaps that was just the free market in trucking, but it certainly made me wonder what juice was going where.

Puglia grows just about all varieties of Italian grapes, reds in particular, and not only the typical southern ones. Quantities are big and all the Lambrusco, Merlot and Sangiovese etc. does not finish in Puglian DOC or IGT, a significant amount is trucked north.

Nothing new or unique, and not quite the same as crossing national borders. But historically Sicily and Puglia furnished north and central Italy with cheap, high alcohol wine for legal and especially illegal blending. As Languedoc-Roussillon and at one time Algeria, now maybe Spain, did in France. The practice may have gone down with the falling demand for cheap simple wine. But it was never confined only to that category. Expensive wine was and is cut and blended as well. Some famous consulting enologists are known to have a “taste” for southern roundness. Many wineries are tempted with inexpensive juice.

It’s helpful to keep in mind the wines we discuss and sometimes obsess over here make up a pretty small, almost insignificant amount of all the wine on the market. In terms of volume, less so in terms of money. A lot of wine is made by cooperatives and even more made and/or bottled by big industrial and sometimes anonymous companies.

It’s pretty easy with the right contacts to buy almost any kind of juice in quantities, and to have it billed as just what you’d like to label it as.


This past year, France was the number one producer of wine due to a less-than-stellar yields in Italy, the usual number one producer.

There is nothing even remotely illegal about bringing in wine from other EU countries. This is sold as vin de table and the label says that it is a blend of wine from the Euorpean Union.

The percentage of vin de table has dropped significantly in past years as consumers buy more IGP and AOP wines. But millions of hectoliters of the stuff continue to be sold.

Best regards,
Alex R.

If I may translate for our American friends; lorry driver=truck driver. [basic-smile.gif]