Jump to content

Counterfeit Wines


JPW
 Share

Recommended Posts

Page one article in today's Wall Street Journal. Christies in London and Zachy's in New York receive subpoenas.

This is neither surprising nor new. Given the absurd prices that rich but ill-taught persons are offering to pay for old "name" wines, the counterfeiters are bound to move in.

I attended Christies (or was it Sothebys?) auctions in Geneva while living there in the late 70's. I even bought some wine at one once--6 bottles of '29 Leoville Las Cases, but I digress. At one of there, at which Michael Broadbent himself was in attendance sniffing his way through various liquids, I spied a large group of 1st and mostly 2nd growth Bordeaux from vintages in the 50's. These were in bottles with very clean labels and, most importantly, very shallow punts of a type which only began to be manufactured in the early-mid 70's. I don't know what was in those bottles, but it certainly wasn't what the labels said it was.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

These were in bottles with very clean labels and, most importantly, very shallow punts of a type which only began to be manufactured in the early-mid 70's. I don't know what was in those bottles, but it certainly wasn't what the labels said it was.

I read somewhere that vintage wine is stored by the producer in bottles without labels, with new labels being applied just before sale/shipment. Otherwise they would dry up and/or fall off under long storage conditions. Also, due to natural evaporation, every ten years or so the bottles are opened and some bottles are sacrificed to top off the rest to keep air out of the bottles. I suppose they could switch bottles during this process.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I read somewhere that vintage wine is stored by the producer in bottles without labels, with new labels being applied just before sale/shipment. Otherwise they would dry up and/or fall off under long storage conditions. Also, due to natural evaporation, every ten years or so the bottles are opened and some bottles are sacrificed to top off the rest to keep air out of the bottles. I suppose they could switch bottles during this process.

You're correct about labels being applied at the last minute, although that applies only to wines being sold by the original winery, and very few such old wines are sold from wineries (if they keep some back, they generally do do for their own collections, not for sale 20 years down the road). As to rebottling, it's possible but I've never heard of such a practice--topping off and re-corking maybe, but not large-scale re-bottling.

Even if a winery were to dispose of old stock, I would be surprised they would do it through an auction house--they have many many sales channels available to them which they depend on all the time, who would not only be glad to do the job but would be very displeased to learn they didn't get an allocation of such gems.

Last, if it had been a sale from original winery stock, the sale catalog would almost certainly state that, and in this case it did not. In addition, since there were several different labels all being sold this way simultaneously, there would have had to be several wineries doing the same thing simultaneously, which is even more unlikely.

All told, I'm confident the whole thing was fishy from the get-go.

Ever since this happened I have been kicking myself for not walking over to Broadbent and mentioning those bottle punts to get his reaction. Another of life's missed opportunities!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The moment a diner sent back an £18,000 bottle of wine - for being 'fake'

Normally when a favoured wealthy customer orders a magnum of Pétrus 1961, appreciative purrs of pleasure are expected to follow....

But this time the usually exquisite claret was returned untasted with angry accusations that it was a fake.

London restaurant patrons clearly have far more money than sense - either this sort of thing happens far more rarely over here, or it just doesn't get publicized when it does. This particular incident has all sorts of interesting wrinkles, though - there's apparently no way to tell for sure if a pre-1964 bottle of Pétrus is or isn't a fake. And after all the hoohah over whether it was or it wasn't, turns out the bottle was corked anyway.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The moment a diner sent back an £18,000 bottle of wine - for being 'fake'

London restaurant patrons clearly have far more money than sense - either this sort of thing happens far more rarely over here, or it just doesn't get publicized when it does. This particular incident has all sorts of interesting wrinkles, though - there's apparently no way to tell for sure if a pre-1964 bottle of Pétrus is or isn't a fake. And after all the hoohah over whether it was or it wasn't, turns out the bottle was corked anyway.

I was once given a taste of a "1961 Petrus" that had been opened about an hour before - when the cork was pulled, it said 1966 on it.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you: In today's dollars a 1966 Petrus is worth $1,500; however, the 1961 is worth over $10,000!

Cheers,

Rocks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sometime at the beginning of last year I read an article that purports that something like 80% of the 1961 Petrus on the market is most likely fake. It is a real crap shoot, and the counterfeiters are getting better at their despicable craft. And the one thing that they don’t bother to counterfeit is the cork since the original buyer (and to a counterfeiter that is all that matters) cannot check the cork before purchasing it. So I agree with the customer, if I had ordered a bottle at 1/50 the cost of that one and the cork was not stamped, I would send it back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was once given a taste of a "1961 Petrus" that had been opened about an hour before - when the cork was pulled, it said 1966 on it.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you: In today's dollars a 1966 Petrus is worth $1,500; however, the 1961 is worth over $10,000!

Cheers,

Rocks.

You know he still has what is left of that case. I have been meaning to buy one of the bottles just hoping that there might be a real 61 left in the lot.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1961 Petrus? Amateurs. I'm into buying the 1861 Petrus, which I know is authentic because all of the barcodes on the labels are hand-written, and indicate that it is 1861, and they were obviously put on by the Château.

I'm a shrewd shopper. :mellow:

Seriously, though, I think that a lot of these things are more prevalent today in the so-called "emerging" markets like Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, anywhere that is more recently affluent and where information isn't as widespread. Where some nouveau riche might have more money than common sense.

Still, caveat emptor has never been more true where rare and old wine is concerned.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1961 Petrus? Amateurs. I'm into buying the 1861 Petrus, which I know is authentic because all of the barcodes on the labels are hand-written, and indicate that it is 1861, and they were obviously put on by the Château.

I'm a shrewd shopper. :mellow:

Seriously, though, I think that a lot of these things are more prevalent today in the so-called "emerging" markets like Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, anywhere that is more recently affluent and where information isn't as widespread. Where some nouveau riche might have more money than common sense.

Still, caveat emptor has never been more true where rare and old wine is concerned.

The follow-up to the important New Yorker article of last year detailing the counterfeit "Thomas Jefferson" bottles appeared in DECANTER MAGAZINE recently. Decanter also reported recently that there are two movies in the works about this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

it is said that the 82 petrus is one of the most widel counterfeited wines. Las Vegas has supposedly already consumed the entire vintage two times over! i recently tasted a 70 Petrus, that I could swear by taste and aroma alone was fraudulent. Aromas of new American oak!! Spain in Bordeaux?! :mellow: I know the Rhone has or once had made its way into the occasional blend, but not anything south of the Pyrenees

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...