Mystery Syrah!

Here in the D.C. area, we’re all busy preparing for the impending arrival of Snowpocalypse 2: Electric Boogaloo. Even though I grew up in Colorado and recognize deep down that snow is not the end of the world, I was running low on wine and cheese (you know, the usual staples), so I joined the hordes at Harris Teeter to pick up these crucial essentials.

Their wine selection is rather limited (and the shelves are a mess – half the Portuguese wines are mixed in with New Zealand and South Africa, and the other half are in the next aisle with Spain! WTF?), so I decided to try one of the low-end big-name brands: the 2008 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Pinot Noir Vin de Pays D’Oc. The main reason I picked it up was that I’d read this article earlier in the day about a similar product:

Several parties in the Languedoc have been formally charged with selling millions of euros of fake Pinot Noir to Ernest & Julio Gallo for its Red Bicyclette brand. … Between 2006 and 2008, Sieur d’Arques allegedly sold 135,000 hectolitres of vin de Pays d’Oc labelled Pinot Noir to E&J Gallo for €4m (£350m). However the total production from those supplying the French distributors amounted to 15,000 hectolitres a year.

I’ve had Red Bicyclette in the past, but not recently enough to have notes on it – I vaguely remember it being OK, nothing special, a decent convenience store wine when there are no other options. That pretty much describes the Baron Philippe de Rothschild. It’s … fine. I paid $7.99. You can get better values, but you could also do worse. It’s your basic inoffensive light-bodied red wine for the U.S. market: red fruits, a fair amount of acid, a bit fizzy up front (almost reminiscent of a Gamay), fades quickly from the palate. It’s decent if unmemorable table wine.

But what cracks me up about this wine – in light of the above article about Red Bicyclette being illegally* cut with Merlot and Syrah and marketed as Pinot – is the fact that while the bottle only mentions Pinot, my receipt from Harris Teeter registered this wine as “Pinot Syrah.” Hmmm…

* Wikipedia indicates that a French varietal wine must be composed of at least 85% of the named variety under EU law. The defendants in the Gallo case appear to have flagrantly flouted that law, and that probably isn’t the case with the Baron Philippe de Rothschild. I just found it entertaining that the Syrah was on the receipt but not on the label.