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Pinot Noir Fraud Scheme

Twelve Convicted in a French Court

February 22, 2010

Is that a true Pinot Noir in your wine glass? 12 have been convicted in a French Court for exporting fake Pinot Noir
A dozen people from wine growers to a wine merchant have been convicted in a French court for exporting fake Pinot Noir from southwestern France to the United States. The scheme victimized California-based E. & J. Gallo Winery, among others.

Eight vintners and wine cooperatives in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, charged with deception and forgery, were given sentences ranging from a month of suspended prison time to fines of $54,000. Claude Courset of the Ducasse company received the harshest sentence from the court in the city of Carcassonne—a six-month suspended prison sentence and a $61,000 fine. The company that sold Ducasse's wine in the U.S., Sieur d'Argues, was convicted of fraud and fined $244,000. Courset said he "reserves the right to appeal" the court decision.

Prosecutor Francis Battut said that Merlot and Syrah grapes were passed off as Pinot Noir in a scheme dating from January 2006 to March 2008. The southern Languedoc-Roussillon is not known for its production of Pinot Noir, a thin-skinned grape mainly associated with the Burgundy region. Gallo officials said that the only French Pinot Noir that was potentially misrepresented to Gallo was the 2006 vintage.

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