The wine detective battling counterfeiters – BBC News

Image caption Philip Moulin is head wine investigator at wine merchant Berry Brothers &&Rudd

Philip Moulin intently studies the label on a bottle of costly wine with a magnifying glass.

He then shines a blue ultraviolet light at the bottle, prior to selecting it up and weighing it in his hands.

“Counterfeit bottles can typically be much lighter,” he states.

Mr Moulin is standing at his workbench at the primary storage facility of UK wine merchant Berry Brothers &&Rudd (BBR).

A spacious center in the Hampshire town of Basingstoke, more than 2.7 million bottles of wine are kept there at a continuous 12C, extending from flooring to ceiling in limitless rows.

Image caption Mr Moulin utilizes a UV light to find security marks on genuine bottles

While Mr Moulin’s main task tile is “great wine and authentication supervisor”, he remains in truth BBR’s head wine investigator, entrusted with avoiding any fake bottles going into the center.

It is an important function at BBR since the business is among the world’s biggest sellers of great wines, the extremely costly bottles that can retail for more than $10,000 (8,000).

And as need for great wine has actually skyrocketed over the previous 20 years, sustained by China, scammers are sadly continuing to target the market.

In the most high profile example of current years, a male called Rudy Kurniawan was imprisoned for 10 years in California in 2014 after being condemned of making and offering phony wines.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rudy Kurniawan made counterfeit bottles of red wine – such as these – for more than 10 years

At his house in Los Angeles he developed a counterfeiting workshop where he would make phony variations of uncommon and popular bottles, utilizing labels he printed out, and filling old bottles with more affordable wine.

The Indonesian nationwide, who was 37 when he was sentenced, was so experienced at the ploy that inning accordance with some price quotes he fabricated more than $500m of wine in between 2002 and 2012.

With a few of Mr Kurniawan’s bottles stated to still be drifting about on the worldwide fine wine market, in addition to those made by other scammers, Mr Moulin intends to stop any of them entering into BBR’s centers.

“There is not an issue with the wines we purchase as a business, however where we need to be extremely cautious is the wines that our consumers purchase from auctions or somewhere else, and after that pay to save with us, and/or sell through us. That’s the actually possibly challenging things,” he states.

Image caption BBR’s primary storage facility is the home of 2.7 million bottles of wine

“We inspect these bottles and their proof, strongly when they can be found in … about 200 cases a week.

“I have 2 males in my group who examine the bottles. We are taking a look at whatever from the labels, to the weight of the glass, the pill (that covers the top of the bottle), and the depth of the punt (the indent at the bottom of the bottle).

“If the lads aren’t sure they provide me a shout, and if I’m uncertain we worry.”

Mr Moulin states that he and his group obstruct a phony bottle “as soon as every 2 or 3 months” and after that right away notify the owner.

Image copyright BBR
Image caption This label is phony since it must state “imprime” with an “m” not “imprine” with an “n”

“We ask to gather the bottle and come or bottles as soon as possible,” he states.

“As far as we are worried, we are doing them a favour, however individuals get truly upset about it – no-one wants to believe they have actually been taken for a flight.”

The wines usually targeted by counterfeiters are those from the leading manufacturers in the French wine areas of Bordeaux and Burgundy, particularly from extremely sought after older vintages, stocks which are now restricted.

These wines are generally offered by auction, and auction home Sotheby’s is among the market’s greatest gamers. In 2015 it offered $74m of great wine , a 22% boost on 2015.

Image caption Mr Moulin and his group burglarize wood cases of great wine to inspect each bottle

Jamie Ritchie, around the world head of wine at Sotheby’s, states the business has strict treatments in location to avoid any fake bottles being auctioned.

“We train all our professionals to identify the credibility of bottles, matched to suitable provenance, and constantly have 2 or more senior professionals evaluate high-value bottles,” he states.

“We utilize high-powered magnifying video camera loupes to examine labels, and our internal library of resources to research study credibility problems. Where needed, we investigate the provenance, that includes calling the manufacturers.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wine counterfeiters will frequently recycle old corks

Wine blog writer Jamie Goode states that scams stays “an enormous issue” for the market.

Regarding fake bottles, he states that when it concerns older bottles, the weak point is that “so couple of individuals have actually got any context regarding how the genuine wine ought to taste”.

“For example, it is stated that the 1945 vintage of Mouton Rothschild (among the finest red wines from Bordeaux) was unbelievable, however few individuals alive have in fact tasted it. That is exactly what Rudy Kurniawan was controling.

“If you are ever purchasing great wine, just go to the most reliable of auction homes, and do not go for any unclear responses relating to provenance.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Counterfeiters will make phony labels

With great wine being so important scammers are not simply producing fake bottles, they are likewise utilizing deceptive ways to attempt to take real bottles, as London Michelin-star dining establishment Pied a Terre discovered to its expense a couple of years earlier.

Owner David Moore states that the wine scammer pretended to be working for a rich Russian.

“We had a telephone call, late in the evening, obviously from a celebration organiser, who stated that his Russian customer ran out Cristal (a really costly champagne), and might we assist,” states Mr Moore, Pied a Terre’s owner.

Image caption The tools of Mr Moulin’s trade

“He stated it didn’t matter exactly what the expense was. A really ignorant member of personnel believed he was doing a kindness and put the sale through the till, 3 magnums at 1,200 each. And all appeared fine.

“A cab driver then showed up to gather the champagne … and naturally a couple of days later on the charge card business chose not to pay – the card had actually been taken. It was a genuine school child mistake on our part.

“Now no bottle leaves the dining establishment without a debit or charge card being pressed into a chip-and-pin maker.”

As blog writer Jamie Goode puts it: “If you are offering or purchasing wine, and it looks too great to be real, then it most likely is.”

Originally released at: