It seems the counterfeiters will have a little cheese with their wine, but only to steal the labels off both authentic products

July 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

At some point you’ve likely come across the phrase ‘in vino veritas’ or maybe there was a time when you even spoke a little too much of the fermented ‘truth’ yourself. So what happens to this timeless phrase when the wine you’re dealing with is counterfeit?

It’s a given that counterfeits are utterly lacking any shred of truth, so when the original saying suggests ‘in wine, there is truth,’ an updated take on this adage might read, ‘in phony wine, there are only lies.’ It seems logical to us.

A recent piece in the Financial Times featured an enterprising vinter, who after finding a counterfeit version of his wine listed for sale at an auction, not only made sure the swill was taken off the market, but decided to use his resources in the industry to track down the owners of the ‘swinery’ that was making the knock-off spirits.

While the paper trail led Laurent Ponsot to a series of dead ends and dial tones, his resolve to find the culprits remains ever…ahem…full-bodied. It’s certainly not been easy for Ponsot and the article indicates that he hopes to turn his findings into the appropriate authorities, a development that is currently delayed by the need for additional money to fund his research. But where others might be disheartened and sense futility having set foot in the shadow world where these scam-artists and swindlers operate, there are two valuable lessons that the Times’ Jancis Robinson expertly took from her reporting:

i. There is a need to establish a central location to check the authenticity of secondary market wines, or even primary market wines that may require verification. This would require industry-wide effort and collaboration, as well as consumer education and vigilance.

ii. Those who buy wine at auctions, or in general, are responsible for their own ‘due diligence.’ This involves education and greater awareness of the counterfeit epidemic; both are developments that should frighten the scam artists.

Progress in constantly being made in security technology and one such company making waves in the authentication field is Prooftag, mentioned in the Times article as the company where Ponsot’s daughter works. And while all the related developments are encouraging, it was the story of Ponsot’s effort that inspired us most, as it showed how he grew from a vintner who was mildly amused by the counterfeiters to a full blown crusader against fakes. His is a familiar tale shared by many who come to counterfeiting, having previously felt it was a victimless crime. Motivated individuals make progress, but get a bunch of these motivated fighters together and they’ll make a change. Ponsot’s story is a rallying cry.

So remember, ‘in vino, veritas’ might be more likely to apply to those who drink it by the bottle than by the glass, but when it comes to sham wine, no matter how expertly or convincingly packaged the product is, the sludge behind the glass, even at its finest moment, is never more than a puddle of sour grapes.

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