The booming fine wine market is attracting more counterfeiting and it’s been something of a sobering experience for many high-end collectors.
U.S. authorities earlier this month said they are investigating sales of wine fraud. The move comes amid allegations by billionaire wine collector William Koch that wine dealers duped him out of $500,000 when he bought five bottles of extremely rare wine, which turned out to be fake. The incident is drawing attention to the ultra high-end industry, which is undergoing a revival of sorts.
There may be new life to the collecting market -- prices of the world’s top wines are up 50% over the past year -- but fraud is not a new problem for the industry, wine experts say. An estimated 5% of rare vintages sold privately or at auctions is counterfeit.
“It’s been serious for the last 15 years and especially the last five years and it needs to be cleaned up,” said Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sotheby’s international wine department. Sutcliffe said the auction house goes to great lengths to verify the wine’s “provenance,” or origin or source, a concept that is the backbone of the industry.
Which wines are the most likely to counterfeit? Bordeauxs that typically go for $20,000 or more a bottle, experts say, especially rare vintages of Pétrus, Mouton Rothschild and Lafite Rothschild.