A Clarification

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.

Digital Sponsors

Become a MyNewOrleans.com sponsor ...

Sign up for our FREE

New Orleans Magazine email newsletter

Get the the best in New Orleans dining, shopping, events and more delivered to your inbox.