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US government plans action on ‘Red Bicyclette’ affair

US wine importers could face government action as the fall-out from the fake ‘Red Bicyclette’ Pinot Noir scandal in the Languedoc continues.

Regulatory body the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), part of the US Treasury, is continuing its investigations into the issue, and has been involved in discussions with the relevant French authorities over the past year.

Twelve defendants, including conglomerate Sieur d’Arques, were last week handed suspended prison sentences and fines of up to €180,000 by a French court for selling millions of bottles of fake Pinot Noir to E&J Gallo and other US importers.

The wine, sold to Gallo between 2006-2008, was bottled for the company’s Red Bicyclette brand, which retails for around $7 (£4.60).

‘TTB is waiting for an official translation of the court documents and has begun investigations to determine the appropriate course of action to take regarding the American importers of these mislabelled wines,’ said the Bureau.

‘Additional actions may be indicated and appropriate once the necessary investigations have been completed and information is verified.’

Gallo, which said it was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the revelations, claimed it had only imported less than 20% of the fake wine, which was no longer on sale.

Constellation also imported Pinot Noir from Sieur d’Arques between 2006 and 2008, but the company said it had ‘every reason’ to believe the wine was genuine.

It added that the wine had already been sold, but internal tests had found it to be Pinot Noir, along with wine imported from the 2009 vintage.

Both Gallo and Constellation have pledged to work with the US authorities as investigations continue.

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Written by Richard Woodard

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