Thursday, March 8, 2007

Wine fraud's bright future

The fallout from Christies' admission that they had been subpoenaed by US Federal authorities investigating fraud in the auction of classic wines, continues to fall out: Sothebys and Zachys Auction houses have now been dragged in to the vat.

But the reason it's little more than spectator sport for the typical wine-lover is that both morally and aesthetically, it's a win-win, so-what situation: First off, anybody who can afford to pay $20K for a '45 Mouton and who's planning to drink it, can afford to have a bottle of '45 Haut-Brion as a backup. And anybody who buys a '45 Mouton not intending ever to consume it, deserves whatever he gets. For real wine-lovers, this kind of thing makes better theater even than a Dick Cheney hunting-trip.

How widespread is wine counterfeiting likely to be? The sages at The Wine Spectator have pulled a figure of 5% out of their hats, (Interpol claims 6%) but there's no reason to believe that the total isn't significantly higher, if only because with the stupendous amounts of money involved, it's in everybody's interest to keep their mouths shut about it.

The theatrically-minded wine-consumer is thus hoping that this story has more legs than a glass of good Port: Hell, let's discover that 30% of the collectible wines sold to the speculators at auction are frauds. It's probably too much to hope for, but let's have big-ticket wine auctions become so risky a proposition that wine will lose any attraction it has as an object of financial speculation.

So, comrade wine-lovers, let's hear it for the world's wine forgers: Keep up the good work!

No comments: