The September 3/10 issue of The New Yorker has a fascinating article penned by Patrick Radden Keefe (who frequently writes articles for the magazine, most dealing with the dark underbelly of commercialism in terms of con artists, fakes, etc.). This time, the focus is turned on the market for ultra-premium, rare fine wine.
Now, it’s a (relatively) well-known fact that forgery is rampant in some areas of the wine world (much more Georgian wine is consumed in Russia, for example, than could ever realistically be produced). This article explores the impact that fakes have on the highest end of the wine market, and raises some interesting questions about the authenticity of some of the rarest wines and most expensive wines in the world. Among the items in the cross-hairs:
- The most expensive bottle of wine ever sold could be a fake (a 1787 Lafite believed to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson in Paris while serving as America’s Minister to France).
- Intricate fakes of rare and older vintages of some of the top Bordeaux chateaus may have duped esteemed wine critic Robert Parker, as well as Michael Broadbent (who heads Christie’s wine department, is a Master of Wine, and the author of a fantastic treatise on wine tasting).
So – do we need to worry about buying fakes at our local wine stores?
Probably not. Unless you own your own island, you’re not likely to purchase any of these rare wines – and you’d have a difficult time finding them even if you did have the bankroll to support that kind of habit.
But – many of us who love wine will splurge from time to time (if you’re like me, you may splurge more times than you should…). It is highly unlikely that you will encounter a fake if you are searching for recent vintages of the top stuff. When you do feel the urge to go for that shiny bottle of grand cru or first growth to celebrate, it can’t hurt to start with a reputable local dealer, and it certainly is in your best interests to ask them how the wine has been stored and to ask about the sources where they get their premium wines. Any wine retailer that wants the few-hundred bucks you’ll drop on one of these bottles (and cares about your return business) should be willing to entertain those questions, and give you a decent answer (not to mention the requisite amount of confidence to drop the cash). If you don’t like the answers or still have suspicions after speaking with them, don’t make a big deal about it – walk away and explore another store or (if you’re lucky enough to not live in PA) on-line retailer.