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Mar 4, 201012:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

A Clarification

Despite the scandal over fraudulently labeled 2006 Red Bicyclette pinot noir, the 2007 Red Bicyclette pinot noir is still being sold.

In the Happy Hour blog on Feb. 25, we noted the recent scandal involving America’s largest winery, Gallo, and its suppliers in the Languedoc region of France, Sieur d’Argues, who furnished Gallo the “pinot noir” grapes for the brand, Red Bicyclette.

As you no doubt know from the news coverage of the story in both general media outlets and trade publications, the entire episode has become something of a soap opera.

In our story, we noted that Gallo was no longer selling the brand, Red Bicyclette. That is not true, according to a note we have received from Susan Hensley, spokesperson for E. & J. Gallo Winery, quoted in its entirety below:

We are deeply disappointed to learn today that our supplier Sieur d’Arques has been found guilty of selling falsely labeled French Pinot Noir. Based on the available information of the Pinot Noir that the French courts have investigated, Gallo imported less than 20% of the total and is no longer selling any of this wine to customers. We believe that the only French Pinot Noir that was potentially misrepresented to us would have been the 2006 vintage and prior. We will continue to work with the appropriate U.S. authorities to determine any next steps required for potentially mislabeled Pinot Noir in the marketplace.

Further developments have also come from a story, dated Feb. 26, on Decanter Magazine’s Web site. The full report is contained below:

U.S. government plans action on 'Red Bicyclette' affair
February 26, 2010
Richard Woodard

U.S. wine importers could face government action as the fall-out from the fake “Red Bicyclette” Pinot Noir scandal in the Languedoc continues. 

Regulatory body the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), part of the U.S. Treasury, is continuing its investigations into the issue, and has been involved in discussions with the relevant French authorities over the past year. 

Twelve defendants, including conglomerate Sieur d’Arques, were last week handed suspended prison sentences and fines of up to 180,000 euros [or about $245,000], by a French court for selling millions of bottles of fake Pinot Noir to E&J Gallo and other U.S. importers. The wine, sold to Gallo between 2006-2008, was bottled for the company’s Red Bicyclette brand, which retails for around $7 (£4.60). 

“TTB is waiting for an official translation of the court documents and has begun investigations to determine the appropriate course of action to take regarding the American importers of these mislabelled wines,” said the Bureau. 

“Additional actions may be indicated and appropriate once the necessary investigations have been completed and information is verified.”

Gallo, which said it was “deeply disappointed” by the revelations, claimed it had only imported less than 20% of the fake wine, which was no longer on sale. 

Constellation also imported Pinot Noir from Sieur d’Arques between 2006 and 2008, but the company said it had “every reason” to believe the wine was genuine. 

It added that the wine had already been sold, but internal tests had found it to be Pinot Noir, along with wine imported from the 2009 vintage. 

Both Gallo and Constellation have pledged to work with the U.S. authorities as investigations continue.

Gallo’s Web site for Red Bicyclette, www.redbicyclette.com, notes that the 2006 Pinot Noir contains 85 percent pinot noir, 10 percent grenache and 5 percent syrah.

To clarify our position, as regards to our article on the situation, ongoing reports from a variety of reliable sources, including Decanter Magazine, were worded to indicate that the Red Bicyclette brand of wines, particularly the pinot noirs from the supplier in the Languedoc region, were no longer in the marketplace. We noted such.

What the situation actually is, however, is that the 2006 vintage wines in question are no longer available. Those wines have not been recalled by Gallo due to their absence of the grape noted on the label, pinot noir, but have in fact been completely sold into the marketplace, with none of those particular vintage wines continuing to be commercially available.

Gallo is now selling to the marketplace the 2007 Red Bicyclette pinot noir.

Last week, Kingsley & Kingsley, a Los Angeles-based law firm, filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court against E&J Gallo; Modesto, Calif.; and Sieur d’Arques in the Languedoc, France, for engaging in unfair competition, false advertising and fraud in the bottling, distribution and sale of various French pinot noir wines sold in the state of California. 

The law firm, which specializes in class action suits, seeks an unspecified sum as restitution and damages for the fraudulently sold wine.

So now we have a lot of “wrongs,” seemingly in pursuit of a “right,” which will never conclude with the wronged party, namely the consumer, ever seeing any restitution. By the way, the restitution, in my opinion, is to replace a mislabeled bottle of wine with a properly labeled one.

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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