The Good Pinot Noir, or Merely the Mock?

Twelve French wine producers were recently found guilty of selling “million of gallons of fake Pinot Noir” to American wine distributors. The scam ran undetected for years, and was discovered not by discerning wine consumers but by French customs officials. One of the winemaker’s lawyers told the BBC: “Not a single American consumer complained.” [%comments]


Oenophiles, like audiophiles, can be divided into those who actually can discern and quantify subtle differences -- this is a vanishingly small group -- and those who only think they can. The latter group is ripe for fooling.

The rest of us just know what we enjoy. If you tell me I'm drinking a $40 pinot noir but it's actually a $10 zinfandel, it doesn't change my pleasure (or lack of) one bit.


and to think that no "pinot noir" could ever be sold in France as such... Wine is marketed in France first by origin (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, Saint-Emillion, and as localised as Gevrey-Chambertin), except for a few reknowned wines, by year, and lastly by cépage. That makes it all the more difficult to actually know what you are going to drink...


"Not a single American consumer complained."

Not directly...but indirectly through our pocketbooks in not buying the product again.

Doug B

"Not a single American consumer complained."

What a stupid comment. Where would they complain to? If they bought the bottle at a store, they probably just wouldn't buy it again. If they bought at a restaurant, they might complain to the staff, and maybe with enough complaints, the restaurant wouldn't purchase any more of that vintage, but ..does this guy expect that restaurant complaint comments are going to make their way all the way through the supply chain back to HIM? Is this why Americans think the French are arrogant?


Admittedly, it was Gallo wine. Any consumer that can taste the difference would probably be buying something else anyway. What would concern me if I were Gallo was that the winemakers couldn't tell the difference.


I'd bet the entire wine industry can recite the names of the ripoff artists. Why doesn't our media post their names so the rest of us can know and avoid them?


Doug B said: "..does this guy expect that restaurant complaint comments are going to make their way all the way through the supply chain back to HIM? Is this why Americans think the French are arrogant?"

I don't know much about Americans consumers habits, but judging by your comment (and robert's), I'd say there's a big difference in this department between Americans and Italians (don't know about French) consumers, at least in the wine department. I'm pretty sure that if we were served the wrong grapes (of course, considering that the person has the ability to distinguish it, which is NOT something trivial that most people have), we would return the bottle to where we bought it, probably followed by some inelegant comments.

Did I get a precipitated view on Americans wine consumers, or this behavior I just described would be indeed very unlikely to happen among US citizens?
(sorry for the english, still trying to learn)



Well, as one of those American consumers, I'm pretty good at distinguishing a good pinot noir from, say, a good syrah. But as to bad pinot...that's tougher. The nuances that differentiate the varietals can be harder to detect in wines not meant to be lingered over and savored, but gulped (or spat out.)

I can't speak to Red Bicyclette Pinot, Noir but I've tasted their chardonnay and it tastes like oak and fake butter. It's as if Gallo went out of their way to make a mediocre California style wine with not-so-great French grapes, because at that price point consumers expect chardonnay to taste "oaky and buttery. " So if their "pinot" had the same amount of oak chips in it, I'm not surprised consumers could tell. You could probably even substitute Welch's and Everclear.

And why any winemaker would willingly source bulk Pinot Noir from the Languedoc is beyond me- something tells me that fake pinot made from merlot and syrah grapes from that region would probably be more palatable. Yuck!



@Susan - I agree with you.

But, you should really try 'so called' Welches wine. Welches uses pure grapes that are squeezed and stored (with skins/stems) like you would see at most any vineyard. Also, they grow all their own grapes and do not add any sugar, additives or flavoring (just some small amount of Vitamin C as a preservative, which most vineyards also do). So, there is actually a very broad and experienced community of Oenophiles who brew wine using Welches juices to create Concorde wines as a side hobby. Especially If it's aged in good barrels, I would highly recommend trying it. Btw., did I mention the wine will have magnitudes less sulphites than commercial wines. And, no, none of that Everclear stuff :)

Sid Langer

Fact of the matter is even the wine snobs had no clue. Heck even the importers and the experts had no clue. Drink what you like - not because some critic/magazine/newspaper/waiter recommends it. Paying more than $40 for a bottle is for fools. Its for people who like brands the kind who spend $100 on a T-Shirt because it has some logo on it.

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Eric Hall

Who would bother to complain about Varietal Correctness in a $8 bottle of imported wine? The French are so used to selling plonk in the US, that they don't know how else to act anymore.