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Cheap Wine Is Fine, Just Don't Pretend It's Something Else

The French take their wine snobbery very seriously. Twelve people were convicted by a French court for participation in a scheme to pass off some sort of fermented, grape-derived liquid as Pinot Noir from the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France. One victim of the crime was wine giant E.&J. Gallo, and thus, by extension, U.S. wine drinkers as a whole. Gallo purchased a bunch of this wine for its 2006 Red Bicyclette brand Pinot, but, as it turns out, it was made from less expensive grapes. Specifically, Syrah and Merlot. Wonder if Paul Giamatti would have been fooled?

The alleged kingpin of the fraud seems to have taken offense, in a very European, and very lawyer-like fashion. Claude Courset, of the Ducasse wine trading firm, says his wines are "irreproachable," his company tried real hard to comply with the Gallo contract and confusing regulations and he reserves the right to appeal. Apparently, the defendants argued that Pinot Noir was not really a varietal, but rather a combination of taste characteristics. They also tried the "no harm, no foul" defense, contending that since no U.S. consumers complained, it was no big deal. I mean, come on, Votre Honneur, these people drink wine that comes in boxes, fer chrissakes. And they've been drinking antifreeze for years.

Wine fraud allegations certainly are nothing new. Some poor sap allegedly bought counterfeit bottles at $100,000 a pop a few years back, convinced they once belonged to Thomas Jefferson. But when we're talking about large-scale, low-value per bottle, rather than claims on individual bottles of obscenely expensive old stuff, zapping the wine with particle accelerator beams isn't going to be of any aid in uncovering further hijinks. Rather, we will have to rely on the real-life Hercule Poirots of the DGCCRF and its counterparts in other vino-producing nations to protect our palates from unwitting exposure to the classic Boone's Farm hangover.

Posted by Eric Lipman on February 19, 2010 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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