June 4, 2016

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS QUALITY:

How to Avoid Fake Wines at Auction (Jeannie Cho Lee, 6/04/16, Forbes)

I was thrilled to be invited to a rare tasting of a vertical of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti including a 1950 La Tache in magnum in Paris. I asked my French host, "What is the provenance of these bottles?" He looked at me as though I was asking about the color of his underwear. "This bottle is over 60 years old, of course we don't know," he replied.

Quietly, I noted several American strip labels on the bottles of some of these wines indicating that these bottles had been sent to the US and found its way back to France. Others had the mark of various auction houses on the back of the bottles. Although we were enjoying these wines in France, these wines had clearly traversed the world before returning to its home country! I examined the cork and noted all were original and none were re-conditioned (topped up with younger wine and the old cork replaced with a new one). I was surprised that even in Paris I was the only one at a table of 12 wine lovers who cared so much about a wine's origin.

An incident similar to this occurred in Hong Kong recently. My generous host wanted to open a 1959 Chateau Margaux for a small group of friends. He loved this wine and over the years had accumulated 18 bottles at auction, a few bottles at a time from different sources. No one asked about the wine's provenance but my Chinese host who is not only a great collector but an excellent taster, insisted on opening three bottles before he found one that he felt was genuine. He whispered to me that he thought the first two that he opened were fakes. He was very nonchalant and exclaimed, "What can you do? Enjoying old wines means taking risks."

Very few wine lovers will bring up the possibility of fake or potentially fake wines because we don't want to question or embarrass the host. But it is becoming a growing problem as fake wines that circulate among fine wine merchants and auction houses are clearly finding their way into Asian collectors' cellars. 

Posted by at June 4, 2016 8:38 AM

  

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