Friday, March 16, 2012

Disappointing Scandal (Gasp!) In The Wine Industry

Sure it makes for good reading, but really, this impacts less than .00001% of us - and no Winethropology readers, I'm pretty sure.  No offense intended.

What I'm speaking of is the latest scandal in the wine industry which, like most scandals is neither late or new.  It's the resurfacing of something that's been going on for decades: counterfeiting.

Turns out that some rare wine dealer got picked up by the FBI for trying to sell faked wines.  Based on the little reading I've done, people were buying his wines up until recently despite his checkered past and having been suspected of submitting fraudulent items to auctions on several prior occasions.  This sort of seems like investing your money with Bernie Madoff, after his indictment.

Anyway, the counterfeit game is this: gin up a famous label on the computer, print it out on fancy paper, and put it on a lesser bottle of wine.  Whamo.  2008 Chateau Hu-Nose becomes 2000 Chateau Margaux.  Seems simple enough.  Unfortunately, this character was as smart as most criminals.  One of the labels that apparently did him in was a 1929 Burgundy from an estate that didn't start bottling until 1932.  Oops!

Like I said, it makes for good reading.

So, here's what's funny...In order for counterfeiting to be worthwhile, you have to be in it at the high end.  No one counterfeits five dollar bills, right?  The 2000 Margaux, for example, will set you back around a grand.  Quick - by a show of hands - who's ever spent $1,000 on a single bottle of wine?  Yup, that's what I thought.  The number of people on the planet who are in the market for this guy's fakes is really, really tiny.  But what's almost comical is that what has allowed the perpetuation of this fraud is that a) no one actually drinks these wines and, b) those who have been duped are too embarrassed to come forward.

Pardon me if I'm not entirely disgusted by this "scandal".  Maybe the real question ought to be, when will this industry will get itself a truly original scandal?  I mean, come on - counterfeiting?  Puh-leez.  Bor-ring. 

When are we going to hear Bill Harlan testify in front of Congress that he's been pumping his wines full of megapurple while spraying his vines with anabolic steroids?  When will Tony Terlato call Helen Turley a slut and a prostitute while giving a radio interview? When will we see Fred Franzia come out of the closet and confess to having had a long, torrid affair with Liberace? 

As scandals go, this one's pretty disappointing.

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