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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Could you spot a fake pinot?

There is news today that Gallo and Constellation (now Accolade) have agreed to pay out a lrge sum of money over the fake pinot noir scandal. I am sure many people will say how great this is, that these big companies have been made to eat humble pie but I'm not so sure. I happen to like Gallo, even if some of their actions seem clumsy (see items in relation to the Russian River AVA) and while Constellation seems to have imploded as a result of over-expansion in the boom years these are both companies which have done a lot to further wine internationally.

Indeed, when the news of the fake pinot broke I wondered how many of us could assert that a bulk wine from the Pays d'Oc was not a pinot but, instead, a syrah merlot blend! I'm not sure I would have as wines from this part of the world can, at times, have a degree of homogeneity about them.
Another aspect of the dual payout is that both companies claim, with some degree of justification, that they were themselves duped. I do not know if there is any such thing as a lab test for pinot noir, but I doubt it. assuming the wine shipped had similar specifications to a pinot noir already purchased (e.g. colour, aromatics, sugar, ABV, pH, TA etc.) then how would you spot it? It's reasonable to assume that the French companies involved went to some lengths to get a blend that matched previous supplies, so it's hard to see how Gallo and Constellation could have done any more.
I note that the 3 plaintiffs in a class action can get as much as $58,000 (€45,000) - that's some change for a dodgy bottle of wine which probably retailed for less than $15 (€12)! I accept that there has to be some degree of punitive fine involved. to deter companies from engaging in such activity (even though I am not at all convinced that either Gallo or Constellation were) but wouldn't it be better if these sums of money went to charity rather than 3 disgruntled consumers? I note that others can get their purchase price back, or else only $3.50 (€2.71) if they cannot prove a purchase - in other words, any fool who claims to have drunk this wine has to be given $3.50 regardless! That's just a waste of money. Surely, there has to be some better way to compensate the wine world?

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