Two days ago my phone rang. As most of my friends call me on my mobile phone, a call on my home number usually means official business. When I looked at the display to see who was calling, I noticed that it only showed a dotted line, indicating that the caller wanted to remain anonymous. By experience I know that this usually means that the person on the other side of the line is employed by a calling centre.
I’ve received several calls like that in the past and each time the caller is trying to sell me something: leather armchairs, frozen food, wine … Sometimes it’s just a harmless marketing survey, but most of the time the tone of voice is more aggressive and very often the only way out is being rude and hanging up the phone.
I usually try to ignore these calls, but this time I picked up.
“Bonjour Madame. C’est Roger, votre vigneron préféré de France. Comment allez-vous ma chère ? » Roger, my favourite winemaker from France ? Who is forward enough to address me as «My dear.»???
During my many trips to the Loire Valley, Burgundy and the Alsace – some of France’s famous wine regions – I’ve met a lot of ‘vignerons’ and I’ve tasted a lot of wines. I’ve met a Marius, a Jean-Noël, a Nicolas, a Charles, and many others … but never a ‘vigneron’ called Roger. Moreover, this man who introduced himself as Roger had a distinctive North African accent. Hardly the kind you are likely to hear in any of these wine regions.
This was the second time that this man was trying to sell me some inferior wine at top wine prices. The first time – about a year ago – I listened to what he had to say. He mentioned the names of some famous châteaux in the Bordeaux region. When I said that I didn’t like Bordeaux wines and that Loire Valley wines were my favourite, he insisted that his wines were similar in taste (ahum?). He continued his sales talk for another three minutes, trying to convince me to buy his wine. When he said that he could ship them straight from his domain by 60 bottles (!!), I had heard enough. I kindly yet firmly said that I wasn’t interested and hang up.
Two days ago, I didn’t let it come that far, especially as I was really annoyed by his new strategy and too familiar approach. When he had finished introducing himself, I said “Vous faites erreur, Monsieur, je ne connais pas de vigneron appelé Roger.” (This must be a mistake. I don’t know any winemaker by the name of Roger) and hang up.
These practices are very common in Belgium nowadays and the media have been warning the population not to buy these wines. The whole operation is a big scam, set up by a North African network that is operating from Tunisia and/or Algeria. The wines they sell come in bottles bearing labels of prestigious wine domains. The content of these bottles, however, is a dreadful plonk, that will give you heartburn, headache and purple lips! The price however, is close to that of the real thing. And of course, they don’t sell it by the bottle … 60 or 120 bottles being the minimum.
The story goes that one elderly lady spent and lost 30,000 euro buying wine from these scoundrels. Now that is what I call a real ‘arnaque’ (scam).