We deliciously enjoy the best easily obtained, high-quality wine in history.
At same time, and for concomitant reasons, we live in apogee of wine fraud.
Causes are simple: more people worldwide enjoy wine, in part because there is so much quality wine to enjoy and because there are more people with incomes who can afford quality wine (think China and American Boomers). The cycle feeds on itself.
For most of us, wine fraud is more cause for a smirk and schadenfreude than for fretting about fraudulent flagons. For nouveau riche Chinese and petro-plutocrat Arabs, however, it is something to ponder.
By some estimates, 40 percent of big-dollar Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles sold in China are not what labels claim.
Scamming opportunities abound. Newly-flush Chinese don’t have a fine-wine background, but they do want to impress friends or fellow businessmen. Few imbibers know what a $5,800 bottle of French red is supposed to taste like. You can foist a mere $125 Cal cab in a re-used bottle (in wine fraud world, label, bottle and cork are more valuable than the liquid inside), and everyone is happy.
If you can’t obtain an old bottle, print a fake label. But, dude, research first. An Indonesian-born collector recently tried to auction pre-1982 vintages of Ponsot’s Clos St. Denis. Ponsot did not make the wine prior to 1982. Oops.
A Chicago celebrity chef faces a lawsuit for selling an alleged faux magnum of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti for almost $50,000. One bottle.
Italian fraudsters were arrested last year for selling 400 alleged bottles of same top Burgundy for $2.7 million. Bogus bargains at $6,750 a bottle. C’mon guys—if you are going to scam, at least scam big.
Motives are obvious: big profits and good chance you will get away with it. The conned Chinese high roller likely has no idea of the bamboozlement, but would not want to lose face even if he did. And if he wowed his guests, he got what he wanted, forget about the wine.
The Middle East sucker has a more nuanced problem: how do you report wine fraud crime to authorities enforcing laws preventing you from owning wine in the first place? It would be like going to Prohibition-era cop Eliot Ness to report Al Capone sold you bad booze.
Last round: I didn’t understand anything they were talking about, but they had great wine so I listened closely all night.