Makers of adulterated wine ask customers to check their bottles
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Makers of adulterated wine ask customers to check their bottles

Photo from Antwerp prosecutor's office

The Dutch makers of the wine branded Black & Bianco have called on anyone who bought the wine to check the bottle to see if it has been tampered with.

Earlier in the week it was announced that a Belgian woman from Puurs in Antwerp province had died after drinking a small amount of the wine. At autopsy it was found that the wine had been adulterated with large doses of MDMA or ecstasy and a similar illicit drug MDA.

The bottle she drank from did not have the brand’s trademark black cork covered with a black foil bearing the company’s name and logo. Police hypothesised the bottle was one of several adulterated as a method of smuggling the rugs into Belgium illicitly.

However no new cases have come to light, despite the fact that the victim died in December, and the news this week was widely covered.

In addition, it is not clear how the bottle could have escaped the hands of the smugglers themselves, and finished with a legitimate client in Belgium.

The wine – Black & Bianco RED Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon is not sold in Belgium other than online, although it is on open sale in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile a number of the webshops that had previously carried the wine in question have withdrawn it from sale, while the brand owner said “the wine is absolutely still drinkable” – so long as the cork has not been tampered with.

The telephone here doesn’t stop ringing. Many of our clients are naturally asking questions. They want to know what’s going on, and if there are possibly other bottles that are not right, said owner Coen Scholders.

I can understand their concern, but our wine can absolutely still be drunk. There is for the time being no indication that more of our bottles have been tampered with and are still in circulation.”

Meanwhile it has been revealed that the woman who died was an employee of Finshop, a shop operated by the federal finance ministry which sells off goods seized by customs officers to the general public. Three years ago some customers had to be rushed to hospital after a bottle of wine on sale in one of the shops turned out to contain MDMA in methanol – a dangerous form of alcohol that can cause blindness and death.

Since then, however, Finshop stores no longer sell wine to members of the public, the ministry said.

Ministry spokesperson Francis Adyns said it was “unlikely” the woman had come across the wine in the shop and taken it home. The Antwerp prosecutor’s office said it had no information to suggest that might have happened, but that all avenues of investigation are being looked at.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times