Counterfeiting is a growing problem in the wine trade, with too few checks taking place, according to Frank Martell, director of fine and rare wines at Heritage Auctions, the world's largest collectibles auctioneers.
Fraudsters are using increasingly elaborate means of duping fine-wine buyers, Martell told an audience at the London International Wine Fair this week. “We are only beginning to scratch the surface of how deep the counterfeiting problem runs,” he said.
His comments follow the indictment of 35-year-old Rudy Kurniawan in the United States this month on charges of selling $1.3 millon of counterfeit wines from renowned vintages. Kurniawan is accused of using a home laboratory to fake Bordeaux first-growths and Burgundy's Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, among others.
Martell said the wine sector should thank Kurniawan for “making us all aware” of the growing problem. He said the wine business as a whole is still not taking the issue seriously enough. “There are a zillion aspects of this that are not getting the attention they need.”
Counterfeits are becoming increasingly difficult to spot, Martell said. Those responsible will often mock up old labels and fill bottles with wine that has similar characteristics to the real deal, or even that is from the same estate but a less respected year. “Most of the counterfeits I've seen are still fantastic wines.”
Martell said buyers should always insist on seeing a fine wine's paperwork before committing to a deal.