Friday, May 15, 2009

Languedoc Pinot Noir - the silent scandal

If two out of every three cartons of Tropicana Orange Juice were made from something other than oranges, I guess there would be some kind of fuss made about it. When the same kind of thing appears to apply to wine, the noise seems to be far more subdued. In February of this year, the regional Les Depeches newspaper revealed that French authorities were investigating a major fraud. Or, to be precise, the gap between the 167m bottles of Pinot Noir the Aude Region exported every year between 2005-2008 and the 60m bottles that were actually produced by the entire Languedoc region, of which the Aude is a part. 100m bottles of fake Pinot is a sizeable number and the story was picked up by Decanter, Wine Spectator and winecurmudgeon among others. It also featured on the inner pages of US newspapers such as the New York Times. Since then, the silence has been deafening.

Now, I can understand the average US Pinot Noir buyer not having been affected by, or even noticing, this story, but I'd have imagined that a few wine store managers and a few wine enthusiasts might have been aware of it. I was personally rather more than curious about the impact of the fraud because - to declare an interest - I helped to create and have a third share of a French Pinot Noir - Le Grand Noir - that is on sale in the US. Its sales are brisk, and I wondered how much this success might owe to the fact that it's genuinely made from Pinot Noir. But apparently not. It seems that the booming US market for French Pinot Noir has not even been slightly bruised by the news that most of it is not what it claims to be.

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