The French pinot noir scandal
A French court has sentenced 12 members of the country’s wine trade for selling pinot noir that wasn’t pinot noir, and which was bought by industry heavyweight Gallo for its Red Bicyclette brand.
The reaction around the world has been fascinating — one of the guilty French blamed U.S. consumers for the crime, while the British press has also been laughing at our wine ineptitude. And in the U.S.? Hardly a murmur. Which, of course, isn’t surprising, since so few wine writers in this country bother themselves with writing about wines that people actually drink.
Gallo, as has been noted, was as much a victim as anyone who bought its wine, and was not implicated in the crime. The company says the fake pinot has been pulled from shelves. After the jump, a few thoughts about the scandal:
• My favorite quote? A lawyer for Sieur d’Arques, the wine broker that sold the fake pinot to Gallo, told the BBC: “There is no prejudice. Not a single American consumer complained.” In fact, many of us did notice the difference. I realize a high-falutin’ French lawyer is much too important to follow this blog, but if he did, he would have seen this, where I discuss why these wines don’t always taste like pinot noir. Does this mean that from now on, when I taste a wine that doesn’t taste like it should, I should assume that the French supplier committed a crime?
• My pal Dave McIntyre always seems to get singled out in these disputes. The Times of London took him to task for writing that the wines of the Languedoc, where the fake pinot came from, are much improved. What this has to with a fraud perpetrated by a corrupt portion of the French wine industry is beyond me, but then I’m not high falutin’ enough to write for the Times. Or for any Rupert Murdoch paper, for that matter.
• Dave, in fact, has been one of the few U.S. wine types to write about the scandal. And why is that? Because, as noted so many times here, most U.S. wine writers don’t concern themselves with consumer-popular wines. The Red Bicyclette in question sold 1.5 million cases, which is a fair amount of wine. Isn’t that worth some sort of reporting? It would be if it was ketchup. But George Taber, the award-winning author of the book that the movie Bottle Shock was based on, told me last week that too many in the wine media — as many as two-thirds of us — think the way to wine writing success is through tasting notes. So we skip the harder news that may actually be more relevant to consumers.