A woman participates in a wine tasting.
A woman participates in a wine tasting. - 
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Bill Radke: A major case of wine fraud has hit the U.S. A dozen French wine producers and traders have been found guilty of mislabeling 18 million bottles of Pinot Noir. Here's Marketplace's Europe correspondent Stephen Beard.

Stephen Beard: U.S. winery E&J Gallo fell victim to one of the biggest frauds in wine history. They thought they were buying Pinot Noir for their Red Bicyclette brand. In fact, it was an inferior and much cheaper blend of grapes.

A dozen French wine producers and traders received suspended jail sentences and hefty fines for the fraud. French customs officers with a nose for wine detected the scam.

American customers were none the wiser. Chris Losh of Imbibe Magazine is not surprised:

Chris Losh: Most people would struggle to know what Pinot-Noir tastes like. The consumers generally are in profound ignorance when it comes to wine which is something of an indictment of the trade's inability to educate and make it accessible over the past 20 or 30 years.

In a statement, E&J Gallo expressed its disappointment over the fraud. But said it wanted to assure its customers that this is not a health and safety issue.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.