May 8th, 2012
Dear Fine Wine Lovers of HK,
In the last few months there has been a lot of international press about wine fraud at the auction level. I suppose that this is not new news but when the FBI arrested Rudy Kurniawan in Los Angeles two months ago this old news all of a sudden became real news. With prices of wines reaching unprecedented heights opportunities for risk ratio for fraudsters are becoming more attractive.
How does this affect you? A lot. As our clients, we know that most of you are part of the fine wine market as a consumer. You should be aware of activities that affect the wine you purchase. With the global wine trade and modern logistics, fake wines are easily off loaded in to our city where we love our luxuries. Hong Kong is repeatedly described as the fine wine capital of the world. We are the newer younger bigger market that all auctioneers & merchants (yes, including us) are hoping to captivate but wine fraud can only be stopped with consumers becoming more educated and more aware. Some have said that Asia is the perfect target as there is less experience here than the Europeans or the Americans as a wine culture. Undoubtedly this is true, so what can we do?
We can learn quickly. With this, I’ve composed a few tips to help you become a more aware buyer of fine wines.
Often our customer ask us about strip labels. This is regarded as a quick litmus test for provenance but I find this to be very misplaced. Strip labels indicate that a wine has been sold in a particular market with different labeling requirements but they do not indicate how the wine was stored and how the wine was shipped. This is what should concern you. You should ask:
If you are going to spend a significant amount of money on a bottle of wine, spend the time to examine it. If you’re going to an auction, they often will have a viewing session. Take the time to go. If you’re buying from a merchant, ask to see a photo of the bottle.
There are many new technologies now being tested by wine producers on how to mark and track their wines but this will not help collectors now. They key for buyers of older wines now is for one to look for inconsistencies. Are there spelling errors on the labels, are the colours of the ink consistent, are the fonts consistent? It is important to note that producers and importers in the past have been known to use different labels, fonts and corks throughout time (and this is what complicates details) but a general alertness by fine wine consumers can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your wine source.
There are many great resources of information out there that we all go to for reviews and ratings. Likewise there are quite a few sources out there including blogs, forums and paid subscription groups that talk about wine fraud but what I find surprising is the lack of interest in them.
No time to read? Consider hiring a professional expert to examine your wines. Or speak to your merchant like us and ask them about the wines and current issues. We are always obsessed with what is happening in the arena of wines and fraud. Because we own all of our own stock, it is in our best interest to make sure our wines are authentic and have been cared for properly in the past.
Let me know your thoughts