What if you bought tens of thousands of dollars worth of wine at an auction, only to discover that a significant number of the bottles were fake? This is exactly what happened to one wine collector who bought dozens of bottles of decades-old Burgundy. The collector was curious whether all of the wines in the lot were real, so he invited over a few of his wine expert friends for an authentication tasting. One of the friends in attendance, wine critic Allen Meadows, says he thought that at least three out of the 17 wines they tried that day were fake. Meadows explains that wine fraud wasn’t that common 20 years ago, but now that the wine industry has become more profitable for investors, more frauds are trying to game the system. There are two main reasons for you to authenticate your wine in this sometimes-murky market: to prevent yourself from buying fake bottles, and to make more money off of your wines when you resell them.
Authentication Prevents Fraud
Wine lover Julian LeCraw Jr. was obsessed with finding a legendary bottle of 1787 d’Yquem. In 2006, he thought he hit the jackpot when he found out that wine merchant Stephen Williams had one of these iconic bottles for sale. LeCraw paid $91,000 for the honor of tasting this wine, and at the time, this was the most anyone had spent on a bottle of white wine. Tasting notes for the vintage claimed that it would be luscious and rich, even in its old age, yet when LeCraw took his first sip, the wine was pure vinegar. He accused Williams of selling him a fake bottle, and had authentication expert Maureen Downey take a look at the d’Yquem and other bottles of Lafite that he bought from Williams. She agreed with LeCraw that something was amiss; the labels had glue residue around them and looked as though they were printed on a computer. The wines were also suspiciously off-color.
LeCraw’s experience was so traumatizing for him that he stopped drinking and collecting wine entirely. His unfortunate story proves that the time to authenticate your bottles is before you buy, not after. Laws around wine fraud are still being refined, making it difficult for collectors to prosecute after they’re sold fake bottles. For instance, Williams claimed that he didn’t knowingly sell LeCraw fake bottles, and that Williams had bought them from a reliable source. Since it’s hard to prove that a merchant knew he was selling a fake, it’s much safer to buy bottles from retailers who inspect them for authenticity before selling them to you, or hire an expert yourself to spot fakes in your cellar.
How to Authenticate Wine for Resale
You can use wine authentication to avoid buying fake wine in the first place, but another advantage is that authentication increases the worth of the bottles already in your collection. When you provide authentication information to potential buyers, you can ask for a higher price on your bottles. There are a few ways that you can accomplish this:
- Sell your wine through Vinfolio: Wine experts inspect every bottle that comes through the warehouse before posting it for sale online. This is the simplest way to authenticate your wine because you don’t have to take any additional steps. Just ship your wine to the warehouse, have the experts inspect your bottles, then wait for a buyer to purchase them.
- Hire an expert: Look for experts like Maureen Downey, who dedicate their careers to spotting fake bottles. Tell your future buyers what these experts say about the wine’s authenticity, or ask the experts to type up a statement saying that they believe the wine is real.
- Buy securely: Get all of your wine from en primeur, ex chateau, or in-bond sales. With en primeur and ex chateau, you can show paperwork proving that the wine was given directly to you from the winery itself, and that it never exchanged hands with a third party. In-bond sales are even better, since you can prove that the wine never left a secure warehouse after being shipped there by the winery.
Auction houses are also more likely to sell wine from collectors who take the initiative to authenticate their wines. Getting into the biggest auction houses in the world can be difficult due to competition with other collectors selling the same bottles. You’ll make your collection stand out to an auctioneer when you can prove the provenance of every bottle.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wines.