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The International Wine Industry
What Wine Do You Put In a Counterfeit Ch. Lafite?
Tuesday, 12th June, 2007  - David Farmer
Creating passable forgeries requires the forging or recycling of old bottles, forging corks to look old, finding vintage paper stock and printing the label and of course filling the bottle with a suitable wine.

Counterfeit goods are a big industry and a very sophisticated one. Recently Sams Warehouse a subsidiary of Wal Mart was discounting the famous leather goods of Fendi, or at least they thought they were. Somehow the copies had worked there way through the supply chain and were good enough to fool the Samís buyers.

The wine trade has a long history of passing off wines as something they are not and regularly a scandal breaks in Europe over a batch of ordinary wine being sold as something more valuable. A new twist to this has been spurred on by the amazing rise in the price of the very best French wines, those with aspirational status.

With a shortage of the wines that wealthy buyers want and these are often venerable vintages with decades of bottle age and astronomical prices, it always was likely that counterfeits would trickle into the market place. When this started it is hard to say but probably goes back about 20 years. Prior to then the wines while not cheap did not give a margin to make the effort worth while.

Buying counterfeit products means you wear them, look at them or carry them and if you are none the wiser this is no doubt a happy experience, the difference with wine being that presumably it is finally consumed. The market caters for obsessives who have to have a bottle of every vintage of the wines they collect right through to those who want to drink the best symbol and will not be told that they have all been consumed.

It is the unique twists in forging wine that makes the exercise so interesting. This requires the forging or recycling of old bottles, forging corks to look old, finding vintage paper stock and printing the label and of course filling the bottle with a suitable wine. What do you put into a bottle that you are passing off as a Chateau Lafite 1945? Do you care?

Extraordinarily it would seem that the forgers are very careful about what goes into the bottle as we have not read a report that queries numerous bottles and comes to the conclusion from the wine quality that they are forgeries. Experts spot the fake from the bottle or the label printing but less it seems from drinking the wine. There are many reasons for this the principal one being that storage and age of the wine has a profound effect on how the bottle opens. As the saying goes there are no great old vinatges only great old bottles. So as long as the wine looks O.K. it is a bit of a lottery and most drinkers are very forgiving.

Recent comments from the principal auction houses such as Christies and Sothebyís do though show they are rejecting wines because of a lack of provenance and by tasting.

Recently I talked with the Wine Spectators Harvey Steiman who went to several of the amazing vertical tastings, often going back over one hundred years of vintages, conducted by Hardy Rodenstock a great collector of wine who is now under suspicion. He commented that what amazed him was not only the high quality of the wines but also their very youthful nature. A fifty year old wine would seem like it was only ten years old.

The clever forgers it seems are filling the bottles with great wines of a lesser pedigree and from a younger vintage and if they keep doing they will be very hard to detect by wine quality alone.

We have previously written about countfeit wines with Wishing Jefferson had Drunk it and Sniffing a Fraud.

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