The long tail of the law

The case of the phony French Pinot Noir rolls on, still generating more heat than light. . . Twelve French wine suppliers were found guilty in a French court of selling "Pinot Noir" that wasn’t Pinot Noir to Gallo, for its Red Bicyclette brand. Their punishment was a small joke, a shrug of dismissal: Suspended sentences and relatively small fines. Apparently, fooling Americans is only a misdemeanor.
       That’s not the end of the story, though. It’s been revealed that Constellation also bought Pinot Noir from the same French suppliers, though the company says it’s sure the wine was genuine. Which of their numerous brands it went into hasn’t been revealed yet, so it remains to be seen whose credulity will be tested.
       Then the U.S. government stepped in, sort of. The Treasury Department’s Tax & Trade Bureau is investigating the affair, or will as soon as the French court documents are translated (um, no one at Treasury speaks French? no observers were sent to the trial, despite tax and trade issues involved? no liaison between or among government agencies here or there?). 
       Now, inevitably, come the lawyers. A California law firm has filed a class-action suit seeking damages against Gallo and the French wine firms involved, according to, on the grounds of unfair competition, fraud, and false advertising. I’m sure they will have no trouble finding a couple of “wine lovers” who feel wronged by buying a Merlot-Syrah-Whatever blend, under the impression that it was Pinot Noir, to act as clients. Will the fact that “decent Pinot Noir for $7 a bottle” is an obvious oxymoron carry any weight in this case? Don’t bet on it.

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