After Bordeaux, it seems to be Burgundy's turn to drink the dregs of bad publicity.
Six years ago, when some of the leading merchant princes of the Bordeaux wine trade were tried for doctoring and falsifying their wines, their rivals in France's other great wine district were smugly saying that it could not happen there.
Now comes Bernard Grivilet, a small dealer in Burgundy, accused of deliberately mislabeling about 70,000 bottles for the U.S. market. It is not a large scandal but rather a small one of the kind that crops up every couple years, is quietly settled with a few thousand dollars in fines paid without publicity and then forgotten.
But Grivelet, descendant of generations in the wine trade, is a fighter.
"I'm not going to be scapegoat for what almost everyone has to do in the trade," he said, threatening to expose his burgundian colleagues large and small.
Grivelet's system of defense, which he has been refining with every passing day since his case first became public in the local press last weekend, has caused consternation in Burgundy. Bordeaux, after all, took several years to recover the foreign markets it lost after the scandal in which the same everybody-does-it line of defense was invoked in court.
In an effort to minimize the damage Grivelet can do, the French Alcohol Fraud Repression Service, which brought the charges against him, is the first to contest his claims.
"How," asked a chief wine inspector interviewed by telephone in the Burgundian capital of Dijon, "could Mr. Grivelet possibly know what his colleagues were doing? Your competitor is the last person you would tell such a thing."
Such reasoning does not stop Grivelet, a man in his 50s with the rounded form of a bon vivant.
"Speaking generously," he said, "only 15 to 20 percent of Burgundy wines are not cut with wines from elsewhere. We are too far north in Burgundy to have 10 good years out of 10. Only two or three are really good. And five years out of 10, you have to do something, and there's always something to be done, believe me. It's forbidden and everyone does it. I can tell you that I for one have never brought in wines from Italy, but there are plenty of Italian wine trucks and other foreign junk coming into Burgundy".
Those who know Burgundy well agree that it is a region where petty jealousies among the wine men are the dominant trait, unlike the south of France, where hundreds of small growers will spill into the streets to demonstrate if one of their number gets in trouble with the wine inspectors.
Grivelet claims that all he did was to put the labels of the highly prized Appelation Controlee , such as Chamolle-Musigny, Morey-St. Denis or Chambertin-Clos de Beze, on wines that came from the same hillside but did not fall within the quantities officially allowed from those privilege vineyards.
Not at all, say the inspectors, pointing out that the quota system was abolished in 1974. According to the new policy, growers can use the prized label on an unlimited number of bottles as long as they meet official standards and come from specified hillsides. They say Grivelet's wine did not meet those standards.
The Grivelet domains are now much smaller than in the time of Grivelet's father. The son had to sell off vast vineyards he inherited, but another firm, which is not accused of fruad, still sells wines under the prestigious name of Grivilet Pere et Fils.
The Dijon wine inspector, who refused to allow his name to be used expressed his personal admiration for Grivelet: "The man is sympathetique , He's got guts.When someone is accused, I accept that he can defedn himself any way he can, . . . But his defense has to be convinving."
Grivelet admits that "a rather considerable quantity," which he refused to specify, of the wine he was shipping in a container with 1.350 cases of 12 bottles each was mislabeled. After the inspectors caught the infraction, the shipment - bound for the the state of Georgia - was held up for 15 days while correctly labeled wines were put in the place of the questionable ones, he said.
He had felt forced to ship the improperly labeled wines to meet his shipping deadlines, he said in an explanation that may go far to explain why he says he wants the law revamped to provide for greater quantities of medium-priced wines he can sell in the United States - his main market.
The wine fraud service says that several previous Grivelet shipments to the United States - apparently three sea containers full - had the same kind of paperwork as the container that was caught and stopped. A source in the service said there was a tipster in France who denounced Grivelet.
Grivelet has hired the same law firm that defended the Bordeaux merchants when they ran afoul of the service. He says he plans to sue the wine inspectors on his case for violating the obligation under French law to keep their investigation secret.
For their part, the inspectors say, anonymously, that they simply do not understand Grivelet's real interest in making all this fuss - unless it is designed to make them back down in the interest of the entire French wine industry.
Grivelet insist that contrary to allegations that wines in the disputed shipment were to be sold at $30 a botttle in Georgia, the average retatil price was to be $9.