Gallo's Red Bicyclette wine scandal
March 06, 2010
Another scandal in the wine industry, another fraud discovered. Recently the French authorities have discovered that French wine sold to Ernest & Julio Gallo for its Red Bicyclette brand as Pinot Noir was in reality, cut with much less costly Syrah and Merlot. This is not the first case and I am confident will not be the last, however, only rarely they are discovered and this is a big issue.
This is the direct consequence of big companies putting pressure on wine makers wanting to pay less and less for wine. In several occasions in my blog I raised the problem and said that wine cannot be made in a factory and therefore, if we want to pay little, we should be aware that we are compromising in quality or getting something else. This time, however, is different because the wine was not a cheap one and was sold with a premium price so it is even more worrying. This case teaches us another important lesson. Big producers rely on wine growers for grapes or wine and very often don't even know what goes in their bottles.
Going back to the fraud, what really surprises me is that the fraud went on for two years according to the French authorities and between all this time, no one at Gallo discovered it. For two years, consumers have bought Pinot Noir cut with Merlot and Syrah thinking of buying French Pinot Noir.
Grapes and wines have a wholesale market and relative prices, and in this case, the Pinot Noir has been cut by less expensive Merlot and Syrah. We often see similar price driven blends in cheap supermarket wines, where for example, the Pinot Grigio is blended with Chardonnay, with the last having a lower cost; behind every blend there should be a technical reason, a choice made by the wine maker based on the wine is trying to obtain, blending different grapes with different characteristics and not driven by cost.
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