Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New Wine in Old Bottles

Eric Asimov has a nice article in the New York Times today on the recent increase of counterfeited or otherwise fraudulent wines. With the escalation of prices for coveted older wines, it is not surprising that some folks have attempted to trick purchasers by counterfeiting labels or refilling wine bottles with inferior wine. In an attempt to determine whether some recently purchased bottles were legitimate, Asimov reports, the buyer invited a number of wine experts to taste samples and give their opinions.

Asimov suggests that concerns about wine fraud are fairly recent, and at least in the narrow circumstances of faking individual bottles of expensive wine, he may be right. (Of course, folks have been passing off counterfeit Cuban cigars to unsuspecting tourists for decades. Check out the excellent collection of counterfeit bands on Cigar Aficionado.) But fraudulent wine has been a problem for a long time. Burgundian winemakers were recently exposed when they used wines from southern France to bulk up their pinot. I am particularly interested, though, in the buyer's decision to convene a panel of experts to sort out the legitimate wines from the frauds. This practice actually has a considerable history itself. Since the 19th century, courts in England and America have admitted testimony by wine experts in cases of alleged fraud. It certainly seems like the kind of subject where an expert could aid the jury in an area outside the competence of most folks. So anxious wine investors of the world, please email me if you'd like my services as attorney or expert.
(For the sake of attorney ethics regulations, the previous sentence was intended as a joke and not as an advertisement for services.)

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