Wine Talk

Snooth User: Charles Emilio

Counterfeit Luxury Wines

Posted by Charles Emilio, Nov 22, 2009.


Reply by penguinoid, Nov 22, 2009.

Sounds like this is going to become an increasing problem for those buying high end wines at auction (sadly, not me). Adding to this the problem that the wines may not have been cellared properly if their provenance isn't known, does buying older wines at auction still seem worth the risk?

Reply by dmcker, Nov 23, 2009.

Penguinoid, a lot of Chinese seem to think it worthwhile (I'm trying to picture the dinners where they bust out the truly expensive stuff, label towards the guests), but they're the ones who are suffering worst from the counterfeits, burglaries, etc. Seems like the kind of wine scam I hear more about in the US these days is fires in storage units to cover up Ponzi-scheme-like pilferings by persons providing commercial storage (a recent story in Sausalito just across the Golden Gate from SFO).

But definitely caveat emptor everywhere, especially with auctions by less-well-established houses. Prices have gone way too high for first growths and similar Bordeauxs, DRCs from Burgundy, etc. We may be seeing counterfeit 2007 C9dPs in the not too distant future, thanks to Parker's love affair with the vintage. Provenance needs to be considered as involving more than just how/where bottles are stored--instead, where and how are they sourced, in every sense of the word.

Having worked in the past with people trying to establish and ensure entrusted e-commerce systems, I'm now thinking there might be a place in the future for systems to ensure entrusted provenance for premium wines... ;-)

Reply by Charles Emilio, Nov 23, 2009.

how would you know with some of these really old ones?

I'd imagine that most people would blame the cork

Reply by ChipDWood, Nov 23, 2009.

Is it worth the risk? Certainly to some. The whole issue brings me back (again) to a guy named David Molyneaux-Berry, speaking at the Taste3 Conference concerning fakes, how to flush them out, and some of the things he and others are doing to put these older, potential fakes to the test.

It's a great watch, and highly recommended for those who may be interested in what's being done to investigate the authenticity of the higher end wines on the block as well as some just sitting in collections across the world.

DMB would be one of my top five nominations should there ever be a thing called the "Snooth Hall of Fame".

Reply by penguinoid, Nov 24, 2009.

Interesting video, thanks for the link. Seems like he does think it's worth the risk, providing you're careful about the provenance. The trick would be to know who was trustworthy, and who wasn't, I guess. And hope that if you buy from a reputable auction house, that they would have already rejected any fakes. Maybe. I've noticed some wine regions, such as DOCG wines and those from Duoro, already have a ID code on each wine, I guess in theory some system like this could be used to determine if the wine is real or fake.

The other thing to worry about would be how the wine was stored. Even if it was genuine, it would be no good for drinking if it had been 'carefully' cellared next to a heater (I've heard about this happening, sadly).

The fine wine market in China is probably going to be were a lot of the problems with fakes are going to really show up, I guess. It looks like there will be a lot of rich business people who are just getting into wine, and want to impress colleagues. I could be wrong, but from what I've read I get the impression that a lot of these business people are still more interested in being seen to be able to afford an expensive wine such as a first growth, than what's actually in the bottle.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Nov 24, 2009.

There are so many counterfeit bottles of the finest and rarest wines on the market that you have to be nuts to buy some of these bottles, large format in particular. If you really can be confident of the provenance maybe it's worth perusing some of these but between counterfeits and issues of storage over the years my purchases of particularly old and "important" bottles have dwindled to almost nil, with the exception of 2 brokers with whom I have solid, long standing relationships.

Reply by qipengart, Nov 24, 2009.

Good article on wine counterfeits in this month's Wine Spectator... of course for me I'm sticking to the lower end stuff like Penfolds Grange hahaha... and Yellowtail mostly so perhaps I needn't worry about those things getting faked.

Of course, I heard that Mouton Cadet gets faked a lot in the Asian markets?

Reply by fibo86, Nov 24, 2009.

We have had a few trade surveys to see if we have come across any fakes, admittedly I have only seen fake whiskey. Although the most famous fakes have to be the Thomas Jefferson bottles (atm) and the man with the money (Mr Kohk {I think that's how you spell it}) to follow the forger (Mr Rohdenstock) all over the world and trace almost every bottle he ever sold.
This forger is that good he fooled most of the worlds best critics (including Broadbent). So anything is possible.
More and more fakes though are being traced back to Asia....including the whiskey I saw.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 24, 2009.

The supposed TJefferson wine and the Koch/Rodenstock lawsuit are famous examples, and it was interesting to hear from David Molyneaux-Berry what his role was in the expose aimed at his commercial competitor (Michael Broadbent), as well as that his current consulting business is finding approx. 5% fakes in many famous, large collections of aged, valuable bottles he has inspected.

However I'd hazzard a guess that the massively greatest proportion of counterfeits out there are issuing from China ('strange' that Molyneaux-Berry said that Rodenstock is now based in Hong Kong, eh?), and mostly circulating there and in other parts of Asia. The culture/society/government there is so accepting and supportive of clones and ripoffs, regardless of any official political positioning. I was just watching the Vietnam Auto Show, since I still keep in touch with past clients in that industry, and *every* one of the Chinese models I saw looked *exactly* like a MiniCooper, Benz, Nissan or Mazda. We all know about street-level knockoffs of music CDs, DVDs, watches, bags and the like, but every single TV and movie production from Hollywood, the UK and elsewhere is online download/streamable out of China within days (in an Internet industry very closely controlled by Beijing), and unauthorized acquisition of electronic goods, automotive, seagoing, aeronautic, and other technologies, with or without military applications, has been an ongoing priority there for years.

So why expect anything different regarding the wine industry, whether wine coolers or the wines themselves? There's quite a lot of cash circulating in that bubbled economy now, with not enough places for it to go, so entrepreneurs of all sorts will quickly look for ways to snag it. And since there are no checks and balances regarding intellectual and related property, of the sort that other industrialized nations have put in place over the past century or two, counterfeiting and various other gray area or just-plain-black scams can only increase.

Reply by zufrieden, Nov 28, 2009.

On the subject of fakes, I made my own feelings known at

On the subject of wines of recent vintage and exceptional provenance I simply suggest: "buyer beware" and enough said...

Reply by cigarman168, Nov 28, 2009.

So it turn me hesistate to collect So called Rare wines. I just try to get those value for money and those from some enthusiatic winemakers that not just fool customers with extravagant luxury brandname.

Reply by GregT, Nov 30, 2009.

Cigarman, that's not a bad policy. However, some people do have cellars of wine that they won't drink and consequently wish to sell. If you can obtain wines from them, you're OK. From an auction house it's a different story. They try to authenticate their items but there are people who are working just as hard to scam them, so as you don't have a primary relationship with the seller, you need to trust the auctioneer. And as we see with the Jefferson bottles, the auctioneer is not always clear on what he or she is selling. It's better to buy directly if you have any chance of doing so.

And in China there is a history of tolerating counterfeiting in virtually everything. It's only recently that a few local producers have complained about their own goods being copied that the government has done much. And that may well be for show. More importantly, I wonder how well many of the people purchasing the rare wines there really know what they're getting.

Reply by cigarman168, Nov 30, 2009.

So far, I focus on enjoying drinking than collecting wines. It will treat me better.

Back to Categories

Popular Topics

  • posts

Top Contributors This Month

259386 Snooth User: zufrieden
38 posts
1413489 Snooth User: dvogler
27 posts
357808 Snooth User: vin0vin0
9 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network