French wine growers sell fake Pinot Noir to E & J Gallo

Red Bicyclette Pinot NoirA court in the southern French city of Carcassonne sentenced twelve wine growers from the Languedoc to suspended prison terms and effective fines. They sold 18 million bottles of fake Pinot Noir to U.S. wine giant Ernest and Julio Gallo. The unsuspecting company sold the adulterated wine in the U.S. market under the brand name Red Bicyclette. The twelve convicts sold to Gallo between 2006 and 2008 130,000 hectoliters inferior Vin de Pays d’Oc as Pinot Noir to negotiate a higher price. That way they could double their sales to four million euro. The amount of Pinot Noir that they sold to Gallo, however, was higher than the entire Pinot Noir production of the Languedoc. This led French Customs to discover the fraud. Some of the growers even cultivated no Pinot Noir. The cooperative Sieur d’Arques in Limoux was fined the highest penalty, 180,000 euro. The U.S. wine magazine Wine Spectator awarded the Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir 2006 83 points. The taster of service did not notice that his bottle contained no Pinot Noir. The wine is sold in the U.S. for about $ 11. Bottles of adulterated Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir are still scattered throughout the U.S. market.


  1. Steve and Eric, thanks for you remarks. Eric, as I understand it from reports in the French media, the convicted wine growers replaced most if not all Pinot Noir with Vin de Pays d’Oc which was in fact not Pinot Noir.

  2. I just wanted to let you know that your facts are inaccurate. You state that the Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir did not contain any Pinot Noir, when in fact the wine was only cut with Syrah & Merlot to fill in the quantity ordered. If you had bothered to do enough research before making such a statement, you would’ve also realized that only 20% of the fraudulent juice was imported…The reason that the Wine Spectator couldn’t tell that is wasn’t Pinot Noir, is because in fact it was in fact Pinot Noir, just not 100%. I’d also like to point out to the readers that hundreds of other commercial premium Pinots out there are blended the exact same way only 75% of the juice has to be Pinot Noir to be called Pinot Noir. The fraud was that the order was for 100% Pinot Noir and it wasn’t, end of story.

  3. The Gallo family is not a bunch of dumb American importers. The family owns the second largest wine company in the world. Matt Gallo grows Pinot Noir and his sister Gina makes Califoirnia Pinot Noir. They employ 5,000 people in a global enterprise and have extensive research and quality control laboratories. E&J Gallo Winery has been in business for 77 years. E&J Gallo had to have known this scandal was coming for at least a year because Wine Spectator had published the story on February 13, 2009 having picked it up from the French newspaper La Dépêche. Now all they can say for themselves is that they are “deeply disappointed to learn today that our supplier Sieru d’Arques has been found guilty.” Sure!

Comments are closed.