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Fake Wines: How Many Are Out There?

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The book, Billionaire’s Vinegar, documented the problem of high-priced wines that sold for upwards of $25,000 to over $150,000 and the challenges of proving which ones were fake. Wine collectors with money to burn, as distinguished from wine lovers; obtain rare and hard-to-get wines for the uniqueness of age of some wines.

Since many of these wines are old enough that the owner would prefer to hold it, rather than consume it, the possibility of the bottle being bogus becomes difficult to prove. Also many of these older wines are purchased from other collectors rather than a producer such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild where the provenance of the wine can be assured.

A high-profile court case of wine fraud, consisting mainly of old and rare French wines costing over $10,000 each was held in New York and commented on here. However, what is more of a concern now is the proliferation of bogus wines; reaching upwards of 20% according to Lucy Shaw in a November 4 article in The Drink Business (db). That was buttressed by a report today, November 12 by Patrick Schmitt also in db, indicating this is a global problem.

Maureen Downey of Chai Consulting based in California said “the amount of fake and counterfeit fine wine in the global market is still huge.” There have been numerous cases, many in Europe where counterfeiters have made bogus wines or bogus wine labels of prestigious Bordeaux and Burgundy wines.

However, it should be noted that most of these wines have a price tag that is usually in the thousands of dollars per bottle, which only the richest wine collectors can afford. As has been said, it is a rich man’s game. In fact, some of those duped are from China’s emerging wine market where many wine buyers are unsophisticated. That coupled with the possibility of “losing face” has kept many of these purchases under the radar.

A word of warning; if one does contemplate buying a “special” bottle, make sure of the provenance. Was it a reputable auction house, such as Christie’s, or direct from a producer or its distributor? If not, one should be most careful in purchasing the wine. For those making holiday purchases of magnums of wine in the under $1,000 category, there should be no problem unless the label says 1945 Mouton-Rothschild, which is one of the more popular “fake” wines out there.

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