So, a French company found guilty of selling 16 million bottles of fake pinot noir to E&J Gallo Winery of Modesto is fined 180,000 euros for perpetuating the fraud, which netted the firm 7 million euros in profits. That slap-on-the-wrist fine doesn't seem like much of a deterrent to keep this sort of scam from happening again.
In the meantime, however, perhaps officials of Gallo and other California wine corporations that are importing shiploads of European juice for American consumers are directing their staffs to refresh their palates about what pinot noir and other varietals are supposed to taste like. Gallo authorities apparently didn't have a clue as to what was going on, which was uncovered by French customs authorities. Perhaps on their lunch break.
According to a concise statement released today, chagrined Gallo officials say they are "deeply disappointed" that their French supplier, Sieur d'Arques, had misrepresented juice from lesser grapes as noble pinot noir as recently as March 2008. They also say they bought less than 20 percent of the fraudulent pinot noir involved in the case and that none of it continues to be sold to their customers.
"We believe that the only French pinot noir that was potentially misrepresented to us would have been the 2006 vintage and prior," says the statement. "Potentially misrepresented?" Did they miss the part about the guilty verdict?
At any rate, the wine was bottled under Gallo's Red Bicyclette brand, though the statement doesn't acknowledge that. "Red Bicyclette wines reflect the warmth and charm of the Southern French countryside," the winery's Web site continues to proclaim. Well, maybe they're rethinking that.
And you have to love the cheek of the French attorney representing Sieur d'Arques: "Not a single American consumer complained." For a more complete report on the proceedings, check out this BBC report.