After luxury bags, counterfeit luxury wines

Petrus, Romanee-Conti, Chateau d'Yquem -- wines coveted by connoisseurs, and targeted by counterfeiters.

(AFP) -

Petrus, Romanee-Conti, Chateau d'Yquem - wines coveted by connoisseurs, and targeted by counterfeiters.

According to French wine professionals, a handful of rare and fine wines face the same threat from fraud as luxury handbags and designer sunglasses.

Trafficking in fake wine has "always existed a little, but it's definitely amplified with the rising prices of fine wines", said Sylvain Boivert, director of the association representing Bordeaux wines classified back in 1855, the Conseil des Grands Crus Classes en 1855.

To the relief of many, the fakery remains small scale.

"We are not dealing with industrial counterfeit production, unlike the luxury brands," he said.

The counterfeiting "touches five to six of the very top wine estates in Bordeaux where there is a real potential to make a capital gain and where there is a world-wide demand because the products are rare," said wine tycoon Bernard Magrez, owner of 35 estates, including several in Bordeaux.

Nor have Bordeaux's rarefied cousins in Burgundy been spared, notably Romanee-Conti, one of the world's scarcest and most expensive wines.

Jeroboams, the equivalent of four bottles, of the 1945 vintage from this 1.8 hectare (4.4 acre) estate have recently been sold in auctions, according to Laurent Ponsot, a renowned Burgundy producer.

Alas, Romanee-Conti did not bottle their 1945 in Jeroboams.

Ponsot, owner of Domaine Ponsot, has had his own misadventures with counterfeiters.

At a sale in New York in 2008, the vintner was shocked to discover that "106 bottles out of 107" were fakes. The catalogue listed "a sale of Clos Saint Denis 1945 and other old vintages when we didn't even begin producing this particular appellation until 1982," he recounted.

"The counterfeiters aren't Asian, they are European or American", said Ponsot, who had to fly to New York to stop the sale.

The methods used to fool buyers are only limited by the imagination of the counterfeiters: photocopied labels, different chateaux names on the capsule and the label, to name a few.

Sometimes the bottle is authentic but doesn't contain the wine or the vintage indicated, or only partially, the level of the wine having been topped off with another wine by using a syringe.

"The further one is from the original market, the cruder the fakes," said Angelique de Lencquesaing, founder of the Internet auction website IdealWine.

As new markets emerge, fraudsters seize the opportunity to cash in.

According to Magrez, counterfeiting increased "when Russians began consuming after the fall of the Wall."

"There was an enormous temptation, because of the considerable demand."

Add to that the immense Chinese market. While the problem of counterfeit wine remains "very anecdotal" on the French market, it "could take on a much more serious amplitude in Asia because the market is developing at a dazzling speed," said de Lencquesaing.

China is "the principal counterfeiter," according to Renaud Gaillard, deputy director of the French export trade body, Federation des Exportateurs de Vins et Spiritueux de France (FEVS). While the main targets are champagne and cognac, according to Gaillard, "one can find Petrus and Margaux in some little stores" in China.

In addition to export markets and Internet marketplaces, fake wines slip into circulation through the auctions.

"The auction houses are not always as demanding as they should be," noted David Ridgeway, chief sommelier at legendary Paris restaurant La Tour d'Argent.

For example, "Romanee-Conti 1945, we know there were only 600 (bottles) produced. But I don't know how many thousands of bottles we have seen at the sales," he said.

Unlike luxury goods groups such as LVMH, which have the financial power to fight aggressively against fake goods, most vintners don't.

"There are no funds. Each lawsuit costs 500,000 euros," said Ponsot. "Vuitton has the means. The vintner, even if he sells all of his merchandise, it's smallscale" production.

There are also those vintners who prefer to avoid any publicity regarding fake wine.

"They file a complaint, but always quietly," said the French wine expert Claude Maratier. "They are too afraid that their entire production will be put in doubt."

sd/sm/ccr/sas

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy