Street Signs

Collectors Warned: Beware The Wine Con

Counterfeiting money and knocking off handbags are familiar crimes; now, the latest scam is faking rare wines. Ray Isle, senior editor at Food & Wine magazine, joined "Street Signs" to talk about the threat to the high-end market.

Wine Fraud

CNBC's Erin Burnett quoted a Wine Spectator report that suggested some 5% of vintages sold at auction could, in fact, be fake. Isle agreed that 5% is "an amazing number -- but not a definite number," pointing to the difficulty in quantifying the unreported and likely undetected volume of faux vino.

However, Isle did point to an incident in 1995, in which a warehouse in Italy was found to hold some 20,000 bottles filled with phony contents. He advised Burnett that the estates most likely to be counterfeited include Petrus and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. If oenophiles (wine lovers) own bottles of "Two-Buck Chuck" -- as the modestly-priced Charles Shaw wines are colloquially known -- they needn't fear knock-offs: Isle said, as a rule of thumb, targets are generally "great wines" with "high point scores" that sell for over $1,000 at auction.

Countermeasures against the grape grifters include implanting tracking microchips in corks, Isle says. And The Wall Street Journal reports that regulators are eyeing Christie's, Zachys and other top-shelf auctioneers to see if their verification methods hold water.