Aussie wine labels caught up in scandal
Thursday Jul 27 20:32 AEST
Famous Australian wine labels have been caught up in an underhanded scheme to distort sales figures aimed at stitching up a lucrative wholesale contract in the United Kingdom.
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon had decided to hold a trial of wines, offered by rival distributors, to choose a single wholesale provider for its hundreds of venues in a deal worth millions of pounds.
The drinks company Constellation Europe, which distributes wines such as Hardys, Banrock Station and Nottage Hill, came up with a cunning plan to land the deal.
To convince Wetherspoon its labels were more popular than those of rival distributors, Constellation urged all its employees to go to their local Wetherspoon venue during the trial and buy a bottle of one of their labels.
Constellation said it would pay out on expenses claims for STG7 ($A17) a week, for each employee if workers went along with the plan.
But an email, sent toward the end of the trial period and urging employees to step up their buying efforts, has exposed the scheme and may have cost Constellation, and Australian winemakers, dearly.
"To date we have had a poor response to our invitation to get all employees to visit their local JD Wetherspoon outlet and purchase Nottage Hill Chardonnay and Shiraz and reclaim via expenses," the email read.
"We would implore each of you to participate in this activity as it is vitally important that we maximise volumes during the remainder of the trial period.
"There is now two weeks remaining of the trial and it is key that we pull through every bottle of Constellation wine."
JD Wetherspoon was not amused, and said it would be unwilling to associate with companies seeking to distort the trial.
There was no suggestion Australian winemakers knew about the scheme.