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Pinot Noir Scam Turns Wine World Sideways

I’m sure you know the wine: Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir, made by American wine giant Gallo, with a cutesy label depicting, of course, a red bicycle. The orginal label had a French guy sporting a beret and carrying a panier full of baguettes on his red as a dog runs behind holding one of the baguettes in its mouth. Well, it turns out some of that Pinot Noir was probably not, in fact, Pinot Noir. In a French court, 12 people were found guilty of selling falsely labeled wine to Gallo, which was then used to make Red Bicylette.

The defendants received suspended sentences of one month to six months and minimal fines – very light punishment for a fraud that earned each of them up to $750,000. The interesting thing about the story is that there were no complaints from either Gallo or the many, many drinkers of the mass-market Red Bicyclette. The blended wine sold as Pinot Noir was obviously a pretty good fake. In addition, the wine doesn’t claim to be 100% Pinot Noir, although to be considered a Pinot, EU regulations state that it does have to be at least 85%.

This article in the London Telegraph finds some irony in the whole situation since Red Bicyclette was released at the time of the movie Sideways, which had sparked a massive demand for Pinot Noir in the American market. The problem was that there apparently was just not enough cheap Pinot Noir available in the south of the France, where the Bicyclette’s other varietal wines originated.

All in all, quite an impressive feat of blending, I’d say. The scam involved some 13.5 million liters, or 3.6 million gallons, of fraudulent wine, also sold to wine giant Constellation Brands. The “Sideways” effect goes on. Maybe it’s time we cut down on our Pinot Noir and started drinking more f-ing Merlot?


“Pinot Noir Scam Turns Wine World Sideways”