So has smuggled French wine has been spotted in Ireland? Wine that is brought in undeclared so no excise duty has been paid.

(You are of course perfectly entitled to buy wine in France and bring it in for your own consumption but selling it on is another thing.)

Excise duty on a case of wine (12 bottles of 75cl each) is €23.60 – ex vat – or  €1.97 a bottle – again ex vat. If you haven’t paid this cost, and then obviously don’t have this charge to pass on, your wine will be at a much more attractive price than wine from someone who has.

How can you tell? Well wine made for the French domestic market has an image of ‘La Marianne’ on the capsule or the screwtop, and wine for export does not. Capsules with ‘La Marianne’ have the French duty incorporated into the price of the capsule – you don’t just buy a ‘Marianne’ sticker for the top of your bottle, it comes as part of the capsule or on the screwcap.

But it is not always this black and white, at times a producer may not have enough of the export capsules to fulfil an order and we have on occasion imported bottles with ‘La Marianne’ on them, in this instance  the winemaker will take the hit – that is to say he or she will have to export having already paid French duty (which is about 2 cents a bottle roughly) but they will have decided that waiting the extra time for the export capsules to be ordered and delivered would not be worth it.

‘La Marianne’ as she appears on the top of a capsule

So if you see on the shelf of a shop, or in a restaurant some ‘La Marianne’ capsules it does not automatically imply the wine was bought from someone avoiding excise, but should you see a whole rake of wines adorned with ‘La Marianne’ well,  questions should be asked.