Merde #1. France's Plonkgate has suddenly grown legs, with another US grog group revealed as a possible buyer of the dud vino. AFP this morning reported that Constellation Brands, the world's biggest winemaker, "bought some of the fake French pinot noir sold in tanker-loads to the United States". AFP said this was "was revealed in court documents seen on Thursday after 12 French winemakers and dealers were convicted on Wednesday of passing off cheap wine as pinot noir to US clients". The wine was sold to the E&J Gallo for sale under its fast-growing Red Bicyclette brand. A French court this week was told that profits of more than $A10 million were made by seven people and several wine groups by selling lower quality red wine to Gallo to be sold as higher priced pinot noir. Now Constellation (which is seeking to joint venture its Berri Hardy business in Australia with local group Australian Vintage, which owns the McGuigan range and other brands) has been drawing the interest of US Government investigators.

Merde #2. The news comes at a very unfortunate time for the French wine industry, which has assiduously been protecting its global position over the years by pressuring the EC to force other countries to stop using French names and descriptions. That's actually forced the wine industries in the US, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Argentina to develop their own brands and styles, which in turn has seen French wine sales fall. Then the GFC and recession hit, forcing sales down even further; especially Champagne and brandies. Now the French wine producers association has released figures showing exports dropped by 20% in 2009, with sales to the UK down very sharply. The UK is France's biggest market, especially for bubble. Exports fell to €5.5 billion ($A8.3 billion) in 2009, while the volume dropped 8.7% to 12.5 million hectolitres. Exports of spirits fell 12% to €2.3 billion ($A3.5 ) billion. Double merde!