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Calif. Lawsuit Charges Gallo With Knowingly Selling Fake Pinot

A Los Angeles law firm has filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court ($VIP subscriber content) against E. &.J Gallo and French company Sieur d ‘Arques alleging that the two companies engaged in unfair competition, false advertising, and fraud in the bottling, distribution, and sale of the Red Bicyclette line French wines represented as Pinot Noir.

According to the complaint filed by the Encino-based Kingsley & Kingsley law firm, on behalf of Plaintiff Mark Zeller, “Defendants materially misrepresented the falsely labeled wine as Pinot Noir when they knew that the wine they labeled, marketed, promoted, distributed, and sold was not actually Pinot Noir wine. This substantially increased their profits.”

A spokesman for E. & J. Gallo said, “As a matter of course it is the policy of the E. & J. Gallo Winery not to comment on pending legal issues.”

However, Susan Hensley, Gallo’s Vice President of Public Relations said in a previous written statement that, “We are deeply disappointed to learn today that our supplier Sieur d’Arques has been found guilty of selling falsely labeled French Pinot Noir. Based on the available information of the Pinot Noir that the French courts have investigated, Gallo imported less than 20% of the total and is no longer selling any of this wine to customers.

“We believe that the only French Pinot Noir that was potentially misrepresented to us,would have been the 2006 vintage and prior,” Hensley said. “We will continue to work with the appropriate U.S. authorities to determine any next steps required for potentially mislabeled Pinot Noir in the marketplace.”

The Kingsley suit seeks class action status on behalf of all California consumers because, “As a result of Defendants’ fraudulent acts, Plaintiff, and all others similarly situated, were harmed. Defendants caused damage to Plaintiff and the proposed Class as they were induced to buy a falsely labeled wine from Defendants when the actual wine purchased was of inferior quality. ”

The lawsuit charges Gallo and its French supplier with failing to take reasonable care and that “This fraud was only revealed by happenstance and the hard work of the French authorities.”

“It is important that when consumers enter a supermarket or a wine store they can be assured that they are getting bottles of wine from the region represented and that they are of the vintage represented,” said Eric Kingsley, attorney for Zeller. “If not, winemakers will take advantage of an unsophisticated public especially in the $10 a bottle category where these bottles were priced.”

The complaint seeks an unspecified sum as restitution and damages for the fraudulently sold wine. Kingsley & Kingsley is a class action law firm concentrating in wage and hour, consumer, and insurance class action litigation.