Wine is more than just a drink. It's a way of life. And collecting fine wines is more than just a hobby for many.
The world of wine is populated by people of discerning palates. It affords an endless journey to some of the most glorious wine producing regions on Earth, and through centuries if not millennia of winemaking history. It can also be lucrative for the most astute collectors, with the most expensive vintages selling for tens of thousands of dollars per bottle.
Think you have what it takes to make it in the world of wine? Wine expert Maureen Downey has some words of warning.
"Anybody who has purchased fine and rare wine at auctions or through some retailers in the United States and even in Europe, especially in Asia, in the last 15 years probably has fakes," she told CNBC's "American Greed."
That's right. Even the best collectors get duped. Counterfeit wine is gushing through the system.
"Anybody who is buying a lot of very expensive wines that doesn't think it's a problem has their head in the sand," she said.
Downey, founder of Chai Consulting, a San Francisco-based wine collector services firm, helped bring down one of the most prolific wine counterfeiters of all time.
Rudy Kurniawan, 38, who had become a sensation in the wine-collecting world while still in his 20s, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on two fraud counts.
Kurniawan, who came to the U.S. from Indonesia, passed off vast quantities of relatively worthless wine — much of which he bottled in batches in his own kitchen — as rare vintages worth millions. And he got away with it for years before his arrest in 2012.