Saturday, September 09, 2006


I read the other day in Decanter that a prominent American collector of wine has recently discovered that a prize bottle within his collection has been outed as a fake. The bottle in question was sold as a 1784 Chateau Lafite said to belong to Thomas Jefferson. Now at the time of the purchase (late eighties) the bottles were authenticated by Christies experts. But when the owner lent them to a museum in Boston, the museum asked for authentication to prove the provenance of the bottles. It appears that at this stage the experts decided that the tools used to engrave the initials Th J on the bottles are not from the 18th century. Which raises an interesting point. It is likely that the engraving was added later, which obviously casts suspicion on them belonging to Thomas Jefferson. But Im unsure if the bottles actually date from the date stated. So technically are they fake? Im sure that the details that will emerge from this will make fascinating reading.

The issue of fakes is a very serious one that is on a massive increase. Serena Sutcliffe apparently commented last year that nearly twice as many 1945's were sold than were actually produced. However the bottles that they reject as suspected fakes often end up being sold through less diligent merchants and auction houses. With the hammer prices reaching four and five figures per bottle for some of these wines, it can represent some serious investment for the criminal gangs that perpetrate the counterfieting.

All of this gives me some cause for concern when we purchase our stock. This is why we use reputable merchants and only buy from recognised sources. The old adage that if it sounds too good to be true it usually is, holds especially true here. If it means that we pay a higher price for the products I would rather do that and be secure in its provenance than score a bargain that is a bit dodgy. Apparantly a lot of the fakes are seriously contaminated with methanol, which can result in blindness and serious liver damage and even death.

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