The Vin Guard: 'sherlock Holmes Of Wine' On The Hunt For Fraudsters Who Cash In On Fake Plonk

Posted: Jun 27, 2017

Source: CBS | You Tube

Meet the woman on the trail of wine counterfeiters behind global frauds worth an estimated £800million.

Maureen Downey, dubbed the ­Sherlock Holmes of wine, says old bottles flogged on eBay help fuel the trade.

Empties that once held vintage wine are being sold with original corks for hundreds of pounds.

Swindlers then fill them with inferior wine and shift them to unsuspecting buyers for thousands.

An estimated 20 per cent of all “fine wine” is fake – around £800million-worth.

The problem has gotten worse in recent years as investors pour money into vintage wine, sending prices through the roof, says a BBC documentary.

Maureen, the world’s top wine expert, said: “Counterfeit wine is far more ­prevalent than people realise, affecting every level of the industry.

“In 15 to 20 years we have seen this highly lucrative, low-risk business explode, especially across Europe, where organised crime gangs are involved.”

American Maureen, who studies labels with a magnifying glass looking for the tiniest clues, helped put the biggest ever wine fraudster behind bars in 2013.

She was a prosecution witness in the trial of Rudy Kurniawan, who mixed fake vintage wine in his California kitchen.

Kurniawan was jailed for 10 years for selling £400million of fake plonk – much of it believed to be still in circulation.

Experts say the industry is not doing enough to tackle the problem due to the embarrassment of being duped.

Documentary presenter Susie Barrie said: “There are three ways to create a ­counterfeit bottle: refill an empty ­original with lesser wine, recreate an existing wine including the label, or make a vintage that never actually existed.”

Maureen Downey, the world’s top wine expert, says swindlers buy old bottles on eBay, fill them with inferior wine and sell them for thousands

“While most of us don’t buy super-expensive bottles of wine, there are also examples of everyday wines being faked.”

She found a 1984 Romanée Conti – a top Burgundy – with the original cork for £280 on eBay. Originals sell for £13,000.

How to spot a fake

  • Poor quality labelling, possibly with spelling mistakes.
  • If the seal is broken, don’t drink it. Even if it’s not illegal, it could have been tampered with.
  • Does it look its age? Shiny new labels are often stained with tobacco or dirt.
  • Bordeaux corks are typically 52-55mm long, and are branded, rather than inked. Check for corkscrew scoring marks.
The Wine Detectives, aired on BBC Radio 4, Monday, 8pm.

By Nada Farhoud
June 24, 2017

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