Fraudulently blending and mislabelling wine and falsifying records to cover it up has resulted in a wine company being fined $1.7 million, its directors on home detention and a winemaker sentenced to community work.
Southern Boundary Wines Limited is in Liquidation. Directors Scott Charles Berry, Andrew Ronald Moore and winemaker Rebecca Junell were all sentenced in the Christchurch High Court, following a long-running Ministry for Primary Industries investigation.
The wine industry is regulated under the Wine Act and one of the key requirement is that grape wine must not be associated with false or misleading labelling of any kind concerning: grape variety;vintage; or the area where the grapes are grown. The High Court sentencing notes say the company had 125,867 bottles of wine which had to be destroyed because it was in breach of the Wine Act. The wine had an estimated book value of $1.3 million.
"This investigation began in earnest in 2014 when MPI inspectors visited Southern Boundary Wines' facility and found a rubbish sack of winemaking records," says MPI's director of compliance Gary Orr.
"By meticulously piecing together these records, as well as other documents and evidence, we were able to build a picture of offending which eventually led to a series of convictions and sentencing."
He says the rules are there to protect consumers at home and abroad so that they can be sure they are getting what they pay for.
"Any offending which tries to profit from getting around these rules is extremely disappointing. New Zealand's wine industry has a well-earned reputation with importing countries because of the quality and integrity of its products."
"We need to keep it this way, and this prosecution sends a strong message that MPI will pursue this kind of offending, and where we have evidence, place it before the courts," Gary Orr says.