Thursday, 25 August 2011

Wine Scandals

I read an interesting article in The Drinks Business a few days ago and I was thinking of some of the massive frauds that have happened over the years involving wine which have persisted from ancient times right up to today. The Thomas Jefferson bottle saga is extremely entertaining and the below book details the story, I believe it's being made into a movie, I imagine it will be great.

but, I am especially interested in the old scams and frauds for example the use of wine from the south to "beef" up Bordeaux wines and one still hears the anecdotes about the Spanish registered tanker unloading wine into wineries in France.

Red Bicyclette is a modern classic fraud as is the Brunello di Montalcino fraud.

Chinese frauds are well known, I have visited China on a number of occasions and personally seen copies of every make of watch, phone, handbag, CD and DVD in the Shanghai market openly for sale, but I was particularly impressed by the efforts that went into the famous "Benfolds" fraud when they copied the well known Penfolds typescript and basically changed the 'P' into a 'B'. Apparently they even copied Penfolds handouts and posters with photos of Penfolds winemakers on them and attended trade fairs in Guangzhou promoting the Benfolds brand. (as below)

To westerners used to English script this seems to be an elementary mistake, but in reality it's only a half loop on one letter that changed everything completely. I for one cannot read any Chinese characters but I do know that an extra pen stroke upwards or horizontally can make character something totally different and this would be imperceptible to most westerners. -But! as you can see from above this is "very special" wine as it is aged in:
American oak casks includign all thusethat held theprevicus vinrage of Benfolds Grange ... and is... an excellent accompeniment to red mears, game and cheese

Many of the top wine retailers now have to smash empty bottles of top wines after tastings and there is a market for these bottles and even the corks. Speaking of China this Australian fraud is also masterful and you really have to hand it to the fraudsters for innovation.
Jim Budd's website in a mine of information on this subject especially with regard to wine fraud and scams, if you are interested in this kind of thing then it really is worth a look.