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New Zealand Winery Directors Accused of Fraud

Tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of wine with bogus vintages, appellations and grape varieties was allegedly exported across the globe
Marlborough vineyards are prized for their terroir, but these bottles had wine from elsewhere.

Aaron Romano
Posted: August 17, 2017

New Zealand authorities have charged three directors of a wine company in Waipara with fraud. Southern Boundary Wines Ltd.'s vineyard manager and winemaker Scott Berry, winemaker Rebecca Cope and operations and export manager Andrew Moore stand accused of allegedly mislabeling thousands of bottles and then exporting the wines. The case has New Zealand winemakers worried that their industry will be tarnished by a few bad actors.

"The New Zealand wine industry is highly regarded around the world and we cannot let the alleged actions of one winery damage a reputation that we have all worked so hard to build," said Jeffrey Clarke, New Zealand Winegrowers acting CEO, in a statement.

A report from the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI)—a public service department that oversees and regulates imports and exports—states that the trio labeled wines with incorrect vintages, origins and grape varieties. They are also accused of labeling wines as single-vineyard bottlings when they were in fact blends. They are also charged with tampering with and destroying winemaking records. The three were charged in February, but court documents on the case were only recently made public.

Founded in the 1980s and based in Waipara on the South Island, Southern Boundary owns five labels: Waipara Springs, Premo, Waipara Downs, Bascand and The Springs. The wines in question include bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from the Marlborough and Waipara regions produced from 2011 to 2013. Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

Waipara Springs wines are available in the U.S., but the specific wines under investigation were not sold here. They were exported to the U.K., Japan, Fiji, Thailand and Australia. A spokesperson for the MPI said they believe there are no more bottles of the mislabeled wine available in overseas markets—they've either been consumed or bought back by authorities.

The New Zealand Winegrowers organization is concerned about the allegations. The mishandling of the wines violates the New Zealand 2003 Wine Act, which set standards for identity and truthfulness in labeling, in order to safeguard the reputation of New Zealand wine in overseas markets, and minimize health risks by ensuring the compliance of winemaking standards.

In an effort to better combat the fraudulent production of wine, New Zealand recently instated the Geographical Indications (GI) Registration Act, which will provide consumers assurance that the wines they are purchasing are genuine and come exclusively from the region printed on the label. Additionally, registration will also give winegrowers a greater ability to protect those region names from misuse overseas.

"New Zealand wineries and grapegrowers are committed to the highest standards of product integrity and quality, and there are very good systems in place in New Zealand to ensure this. The investigation proves the systems in place work and it is appropriate that this matter is before the courts," said Clarke.

The three accused face more than 150 charges between them, and are expected to enter their pleas in a court hearing Nov. 30.

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