Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

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.

Current Wine News and Headlines

(Updated: 02/22/10 ET)

Sip on GAYOT's picks of the best small-production craft beers.

Sip straight or mix up a margarita with GAYOT's picks of the best tequilas under $100.