Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Red Bicyclette fraud -- a contrarian view
By now you have probably read that 12 members of a French consortium were convicted of fraudulently selling Merlot and Syrah as Pinot Noir to Gallo, to be bottled under the Red Bicyclette label.
I've been reading the finger-pointing stories, such as Dave McIntyre's piece in today's Washington Post, and maybe it's jet lag, but I can't help feeling contrarian.
I know it's a crime, and I'm glad the French authorities are taking it seriously. But I don't feel sorry at all for consumers who were duped.
Here's why: Why would anybody expect Pinot Noir from the Languedoc region from Gallo for $8 to be good in the first place?
If you only have $8 to spend on wine, you should be looking for competence, not greatness. And you most definitely should not be looking for Pinot Noir.
Taking it one step further, anybody who thinks an $8 bulk-wine Pinot Noir from the Languedoc is worth drinking would never notice that it's not Pinot Noir, which is exactly why the crime took so long to detect.
Moreover, while I think Gallo does a great job with some of its cheap labels -- some of the Twin Valley line are excellent -- I have never liked Red Bicyclette. If somebody falls for that silly label with the cartoon Frenchman, rather than buying a real French-run value wine from the same region (and there are plenty), then I just don't feel all that sorry for them.
It's a crime, for sure. But it's more of a crime against the rest of the industry than against the consumers who bought the bottles. The French conspirators, as well as Gallo, gave some Americans an unrealistic expectation of how cheap Pinot Noir can be. That hurt legitimate growers all over the world who were unable to move their $25 Pinots -- and even $25 is pretty cheap for drinkable Pinot. I'll cry for struggling vintners, but my eyes are dry for Red Bicylette buyers. It's just like when somebody sidles up to you and offers you a Rolex for $50: You get what you pay for.
Posted by W. Blake Gray at 4:08 PM