Fake and Counterfeit wines: Clues and Advises
1. Subject to a certain form beauty: a brief history of wine evolution
Historically, wine, which started its existence roughly a little more than 8,000 years ago, as a rather primitive and wild fermented grape juice, rapidly evolved into a more domesticated beverage, with the earliest evidence of grapes found in pieces of pottery, big jar and amphorae made of clay (probably used for the fermentation and transportation) in Georgia 6,000 BC. Evidences of wine made from fermented grapes were also found in China 5,500 BC and Armenia 4,100 BC. This agricultural product was predominantly made to be originally consumed during rituals and special occasions, then during religious and festive events around 4,000 years ago while worshiping gods like Dionysus by the Greeks and Bacchus by the Romans (I spare you the whole story about the ancient Egyptians growing, importing and trading wine several millennia ago, otherwise it will be too long...). In short, wine then became a requisite part of religious masses and rituals (Jewish, Christian, etc…) and the drink of the nobles and the wealthiest.
Prior Christopher Columbus, wine was mostly a beverage of the old world (the old continent), and basically about 16 countries located to the north of the Mediterranean sea constituted the main producing countries of the world (not including countries of North Africa and the Middle east). These 16 countries led by France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Portugal, remain to this day, the major key players in the wine world.
Post-Columbus, the wine spread out in the New World: the Americas (North and South), South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India, Russia and the rest of Asia. And although some sort of wines were made in China and Japan since 3,000 BC, the wines of the old Europe were unequaled in terms of taste and quality.
|Map of the major wine producing countries and most ideal latitudes back 50 years ago by ©LeDomduVin 2018|
Back 50 years ago, out of 190+ countries in the world, only about 30-40 countries were making wine within the latitudes defined as the most ideal for growing grapes and producing wines, between 30° and 50° North (Northern Hemisphere) and between 30° and 50° South (Southern Hemisphere) (refer to Map above). And it was nearly unthinkable to produce wines anywhere else at the time.
|Map of nowadays major wine producing countries by ©LeDomduVin 2018|
Yet, 50 years later, nowadays, due to ever evolving technologies and climate changes, as well as the insatiable need for men (and women) to always explore the unknown and push the limits further to the extreme, production and consumption are now occurring throughout the whole world. Wines are now even produced in countries and areas where none thought it would have been possible only half of a century ago, roughly anywhere in between the latitudes 60°N to 50°S (refer to map above).
Some wines are now made at very high altitude, above 3000 meters (9842 feet) above sea level, in remote locations lost in the mountains, some are produced under subtropical climate on small Islands and some even have their roots in or under the water.
Unbelievable, right? More especially when, not that long ago, oenologists, winemakers and scientists were still thinking that vines could only grow under very specific climate and environmental, geographical and geological conditions.
Just to give you a few examples of the strangest and most extreme places where vines are now grown and wines are produced in these rather peculiar conditions:
The most difficult
- Riesling vines planted on terraced cliffs at 70-degree angles in the Mosel, in Germany
- Bodega La Geria grows Malvasia in the desertic area of the Lanzarote holes in the Canary Islands
- Sahara Vineyards planted in the desert roughly 50 km south of Cairo, in Zamalek, Egypt
- Domaine du Val d'Argan Essaouira producing Rhone-Valley-like wines in the desert of Morocco, near the town of Essaouira, with the 13 grape varieties from the Rhone Valley
- Lerkekåsa Vineyard, located in Telemark, Norway and located at 59°40 North (the northernmost commercial vineyard in the world)
- The Olkiluoto nuclear power plant vineyard, used as an experimentation (not for commercial use) is located even further north at 60°14 N in Finland and constitute the northernmost experimental vineyard in the world)
- Domaine Dominique Auroy, "Vin de Tahiti", with vines growing on flat land, roughly at sea level, on the coral soils of a Tahitian atoll in the French Polynesia
- Domaine Royal de Jarras has vineyards planted in marsh-like sandy soils in Camargue, in the southern part of the Languedoc, in France
- Vinas de Uquia, Claudio Zucchino, La Quebrada de Humahuaca, located in the province of Jujuy in Argentina (north of Salta), with the main vineyards hovering at 3330 Meters (10922 feet) above sea level, and even one of their vineyards topping at a dizzying 3700 meters (12139 feet) is surely one of the (or even "THE") highest vineyards on earth
- Bodega Colomé, a wine estate in the northerly Salta region of Argentina, also boasting the world’s highest commercial vineyards, culminating between 1848 meters (6000 feet) and 3110 meters (10203 feet) above sea level
- Ao Yun (probably one of the most famous Chinese wines, meaning "flying above the clouds" in Chinese) located a the foot of the Meili Snow Mountain range located in the Yunnan Province, in China, possesses vineyards at 2600 meters (8530 feet) above sea level
- Viñedos Don Leo, another extreme altitude vineyard culminating at 2,000+ meters (6562 feet) above sea level, in Parras, Mexico
- Fox Fire Farms, located in Ignacio, Colorado, USA, has vineyards reaching the height of 1974 meters (6479 feet) above sea level
- Bodega Frontos, located in the village of La Granadilla de Abona, in Spain’s Canary Islands, possesses vineyards comprised between 1200 meters (3937 feet) and 1700+ meters (5577 feet) above sea level.
- Mount Sutherland located at about 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level in the Sutherland-Karoo wine growing region, South-Africa
The strangest places (not anymore though)
- Antartica's Shackleton Hut where James Pope produces Ice wine from Riesling, Vidal and Seyval Blanc grapes planted on rocky-sandy salty soils a stone throw from the icy waters
- Red Mountain Estate located in the southern Shan state of Myanmar (Burma) (Asia)
- Associação dos Agricultores de Chã, located in Portela, a small village near the crater of the volcano Pico do Fogo, on the island of Fogo, Cape Verde (Atlantic Ocean)
- Floating Vineyards (Siam Winery) located about 60 kms north from Bangkok on the Chao Phraya Delta, with vineyards planted between the Tha Chin and Mae Klong Rivers on narrow strips of land between evenly spaced canals
- Edivo Vina winery is located underwater, off the coast of Drače on the Pelješac Peninsula, in Croatia. The wines are put in tightly closed amphorae that are stored in sunken boats acting as cellars underwater, where fermentation and aging take place.
- Maui Wine located at about 610 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level on the slopes of the the Haleakalā volcano, near Kula, Hawaii.
Let's look at the map again:
|Map of nowadays major wine producing countries by ©LeDomduVin 2018|
As you can see on the map above, nowadays, vines are basically grown nearly everywhere in the world, (not on the map but even in Antarctica), either for grape consumption (raisins), food products (jam, jelly), grape seed extract (remedy), vinegar (condiment), distillation (alcohol), grape juice and most importantly wine production for commercialization or for experimental purposes.
Looking at the map closely, the only countries not producing wines are
- either the ones that have the less favorable climate, geographical and geological conditions and environment to grow vines (like most parts of West and Central Africa, but I would not be surprised if vines will grow there one day... or not if climate-change completely dries up the land),
- or basically the countries where wine is prohibited (made illegal by law, along with religious and/or political reasons and/or to counter alcohol use and addiction) like in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, some parts of India (only in the states of Gujarat, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, and the union territory of Lakshadweep), Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, UAE (only Shariah), Yemen, Pakistan (only for Muslims) (the strange thing is that you can still find alcohol and wines at the airport and in other duty free zones or specific zones for expatriates in these countries... 😊)
- or, understandably, the countries that are considered unstable (politically, religiously, ethnically and/or demographically) primarily due to ineffective and/or corrupt governments, dictatorships, religious wars, ethnic wars, civil wars, lack of public services and founds, failed economies, genocide, famine, diseases, or any other conflicts of political, social, economical or religious nature impacting these countries. Africa, for example, which has largely been a success story over the past 20 years, suffered (and still now) from several countries putting that progress at risk. Think Thank "Fund for Peace" adjust the list of the most unstable nations in their yearly "Fragile States Index" according to their level of stability. For 2018, the most unstable countries on the list were: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Chad, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Haiti, Guinea, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Burundi, Eritrea, Pakistan, Niger, Myanmar, Cameroon, Uganda. (if interested, see the full list as well as the world map of the most unstable countries on their website here)
So, compared to the 30-40 countries producing wines 50 years ago, nowadays, out of roughly 195 countries in the world, 73 countries are currently officially producing wine.... well... actually, and unofficially, it is said that 120 countries are now producing wine.
Consequently, due to this globalization, one may think that wine could have loose its identity and taste, with all these countries making wines from roughly the same 10-12 most widely planted grapes varieties in the world. But no, wine is a complex beverage and the result of an intricate combination of natural, human, mechanical and technical factors.
In fact, wines from within the same region, same appellation or even from parcels next to each other are distinguishable. For the most part, this distinction is due to the unique characteristics imparted on wine by geographical and geological conditions, the climate and micro-climate, the growing methods, the vinification and the winemaking process, as well as the producer's skills, knowledge, experience, character and personality, and the style in which he or she makes the wine. And behind all these natural and man-made factors exists an intricate web of regulations and laws (rules per country, region, appellation, wine style, authorized grape varieties and techniques, etc...), which fundamentally influences the character of the final product.
Sorry, I'm going off-topic once again.... but those of you who know me well, know that I cannot help myself talking about other things than the main subject, it is in my nature, I can talk and write about all sorts of things for hours, even days.... and being "short" is not in my vocabulary.....😊
|Picasso-like Bottle by ©LeDomduVin 2018|
So, to go back to (and conclude) this "brief" history of beauty and the evolution of wine.... after all these centuries, when wine was mostly made by and for and accessible to the religious, the nobles and the wealthiest, wine finally became a common drink in most household for the less expensive, and a luxury good or an investment asset or even a collector item or even reaching the status of piece of art for some of the most expensive (like a painting from Picasso for example.... How much do you think that Picasso-like Bottle I drew for this post could cost on the market? 😉).
The necessity of Wine Quality Control: Inspection and Authentication by ©LeDomduVin 2018
2. The necessity of Wine Quality Control: Inspection and Authentication
4. Let’s clarify some definitions!
First and foremost, let's clarify some definitions, as it is very important to understand the difference between the words "fake", "counterfeit" and "tampered with" and dissociate them in order to correctly assess the status of a suspicious bottle.
- Fake wine bottle/label = a wine and/or a label that is not genuine; a forgery or sham, created to look alike or have similarities with other known wines from the same regions to deceive people into a scam (like a DRC made in Languedoc with Syrah and bottled in Bordeaux.... for example)
- Counterfeit wine bottle/label = made as an exact imitation of a valuable bottle of wine (bottle, capsule, cork and label and even wine taste) with the intention to deceive or defraud someone (like the bottles and labels of Rudy Kurniawan for example)
- Tampered with = usually a genuine bottle that one has meddled with especially for the purpose of altering its content by adding or removing wine through the capsule and cork via a syringe for example, damaging the label to disguise or conceal the vintage and make it look older, or misusing the bottle by intentionally leaving the bottle at high temperature for example to alter the color and the taste, and give the impression that the wine is older than it is. These are just a few examples, I leave other ways to tamper with a bottle of wine to your imagination.
(...and yes, I know what you are thinking, you're right, both "Fake" and "Counterfeit" could enter into the category of "Tampered with", yet I prefer to dissociate them that way... easier to understand for some...)
Wine Inspection / Authentication basic tools by ©LeDomduVin 2018
5. Wine Inspection / Authentication Basic Tools
Wine Inspection - Bottle Examination tools
A powerful flashlight (LED preferably)
Details on the label(s) (font, color, tiny details)
Glue trace around the label
A dark/blue ultraviolet light (could be the same as the flash light, some do both functions)
Details on the label(s) (font, color, tiny details)
Unveil holograms and/or other hidden images or writings embedded in the label (or even in the glass of the bottle), invisible to the naked eye, and therefore indiscernible without a proper tool
A magnifier / magnifying glass
Details on the label(s) (font, color, tiny details)
Details on the glass of the bottle (small prints and/or codes, laser printed on or engraved in or even embedded in the glass of the bottle)
Defaults and asperities on the glass of the bottles
Wine level (depending on vintage and conditions of the bottle)
Label position (some wineries are very particular on placing all their labels at the exact same measurement)
To cut the capsule, basically make a vertical incision in the capsule to check the cork (in case of doubt, and with the approval of the owner if done prior purchase of course)
To remove remains of very sticky labels
Transparent Adhesive Tape
To close the cut capsule
Eventually to remove dust particles or remains of very sticky labels
To scan NFC Labels, QR Codes and other encrypted and tamper-proof certificates which are mostly readable via smartphone’s app to check the authenticity of the bottle
Your camera (either on your phone or a real camera)
To take pictures of the bottle in full, as well as close-ups and details to be used as references and kept as records
A laptop computer (excel file) and/or a note book + a pen
To take notes during the bottle Inspection / Authentication and saved them as records of
Remember to save both the pictures and the bottle inspection results in a folder on your computer for records purposes
An excel file is probably the best, including in each columns
You can add more columns if needed, but this list should give you a good head-start if prepared prior doing the inspection
I know that you are now armed with your tools and eager to start the bottle inspection, but do you know what to look for on a bottle of wine to verify if it is a genuine bottle or not? Yes? No?... No... then you are not quite ready yet. But, lucky you, in the following chapter, I'm giving you the basic minimum knowledge required when inspecting and/or authenticating a bottle.
Yet, prior doing your first in inspection, you should get acquainted with the language and abbreviations used in the wine industry, as it is important for you to understand what you are talking about (it will give more credibility and will appear more serious in a conversation with Quality Control and Wine Authentication people, as you won't have to cut the conversation to ask questions about what is "BN" or "SPC" for example).
|Bottle Description: Bordeaux vs Burgundy by ©LeDomduVin 2019|
6. Bottle Description: Language and Abbreviations
The preferred language (including the resulting abbreviations and terms) to describe the conditions of the bottle, capsule, cork, label(s) during a wine inspection/authentication has been used in the wine trade/industry (roughly) since the 15th century onward and further developed by the auction houses since the 18th century. So, this is nothing new, but it is important to get acquainted with it.
The words, abbreviations and terms used are now pretty universal and rather common to the whole wine trade in general. Of course, each auction house has its few exceptions and variants, but overall everybody speaks the same language (more/less) when it comes to wine inspection/authentication (not like on the above illustration of Bordeaux vs Burgundy bottles, that I made especially for this chapter - by the way, funny, no?).
You can always go and check each auction house website to find the language they use for bottle condition descriptions (bottle, capsule, cork, wine level or "ullage", label(s)) (Acker being probably the most complete in terms of abbreviations); or you can just click on the following links to go to the pdf format documents for each of the major auction houses (by Alphabetical order):
- Acker Merrall and Condit (Bottle Description) (click here)
- Baghera (Inspection criteria) (click here - page 282 of their catalog)
- Christie's (Level/Ullage Descriptions and Interpretations) (click here)
- Sotheby's (Glossary of abbreviations) (click here)
- Zachys (Level/Ullage Descriptions and Interpretations) (click here)
But, to make it easier for you, I compiled for you (below) all the various words, abbreviations, terms and other criteria used for the bottle descriptions, interpretations and conditions during a wine inspection/authentication. And I also included them into photos and illustrations (as I like to do so) for you to have a better understanding of what they mean and correspond to. A visual is worth a thousand words.
|Bottle Description Ullage - Wine Level - Abbreviations and Terms by ©LeDomduVin 2019|
|Wine Inspection - Authentication | Bottle Description: Language and Abbreviations - |
Compiled by ©LeDomduVin2019
This list is basically a compilation of the most commonly used words by the 5 auction houses cited above (Acker Merrall and Condit, Baghera, Chrisries, Sothebys and Zachys) to describe the bottle conditions when they proceed to a wine inspection/authentication (prior the auction to assess the bottle and wine conditions), which are in turn transcribed in their catalog.
So, now that we clarified the sense of some of these abbreviations, you are now more acquainted with the language commonly used and therefore better armed and prepared to do you wine inspection/authentication.
You just need to prepare your excel shit with the additional categories to be checked (like in the table below for example):
|Auction Inspection - Authentication Table example - Bottle Descriptions - By ©LeDomduVin2019|
Did you prepare everything like I showed you above? Yes, so let's move on to the wine inspection/authentication points to be checked, shall we?
|Wine Inspection - Authentication List of points to check on a bottle by ©LeDomduVin 2018|
7. Wine inspection/authentication: List of points to check on a bottle
Several checks might prove necessary in the presence of a suspicious bottle, more especially with old bottles/vintages, as many factors might make you think that it is a fake bottle, but it might not always be the case after all…. (I'll explain you why further below in each category).
So, what’s to check? And what are the questions you need to ask yourself while inspecting a bottle to define if it is real or fake bottle? And/or if it has been tampered with or not?
In the following video, I go though some of the most basic things to check on a bottle, especially when verifying the authenticity an old vintage bottle. These basic checking steps must absolutely be done when doing an inspection or authentication of an old bottle of wine.
You can go more in details if needed, but this is just to give you an idea on how I do a basic inspection and authentication for the old bottles we buy for the company I work for.
The wines I have chosen to inspect as examples for this video are the followings:
Château Lafite Rothschild 1945 and 1947
Château Latour 1945
Château Haut-Brion 1959
Château Cheval Blanc 1949
Château d'Yquem 1958, 1959 and 1906
Did you learn something by watching this video? Hoping my French accent wasn't too distracting and that you understood most of what I said..... If not, it is not a problem, as I'm going through each step, 1 by 1, in details below.
So, where to beginning? Well, personally, I logically like to inspect a bottle starting by its overall conditions, then scrutinize all the details by going down from the capsule to the punt, more especially for old bottles/vintages where extreme caution is required; and therefore inspect the details in the following order:
- Overall bottle condition(s) (glass age, color, thickness, markings, details)
- The Wine Level (high, low, correct for the vintage, reconditioned)
- The Capsule (condition, color and markings)
- The Cork (condition and markings)
- The Label(s) (condition, color, font, paper, drawing, logo, details)
- The Color (young, old, clear, dull, correct for the vintage)
- The Sediments (presence, thickness, aspect, other deposits)
- The Punt (or "Cul de la Bouteille") (depth, engravings/markings)
- The bottle format (shape, volume, engravings/markings)
- The vintage
- The engraving and codes
- The technologies (anti-fraud and security solutions to secure, trace and prove the authenticity of the bottle and prevent fake and counterfeit bottles)
|Chateau Latour 1945 - Overall bottle conditions - Photo by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
7.1 Overall Bottle Condition(s)
Inspecting the overall condition(s) of the bottle is looking at the aspect of the bottle at first glance.
How does the bottle look? Does it look good or bad? Is it pristine or has it been roughed around? Does it present the right characteristics for its age? Does it look too new or too old for its age? Does it seem genuine or is it suspicious?
Checking the overall conditions means checking the obvious, any apparent defaults that should or should not be there for its age, and consequently drawing a first assessment of the bottle at first glance, without jumping to hastily to any conclusion.
All wine bottles falls into either one of the following categories: A or B
Category A. A bottle directly coming from a closed/sealed/banded original wooden case (OWC) or Original Carton Box (OCB) should be in pristine conditions. Unless the case has suffered substantial damages due bad storage and/or transportation conditions or external incidents (intentional or unintentional) that could have affected the case conditions and its content, no matter young or old vintage, the bottle(s) should be pristine.
If not, meaning you've just opened the case and the bottle(s) present damages on the bottle, capsule or label, you must take a video or pictures and immediately report the problem to your seller/supplier.
2 scenarios will happen:
- either you literally just received the OWC (or OCB) case prior opening it, and negotiations with the seller/supplier, as well as the insurance, can be done, as the damages may have occurred at the seller/supplier warehouse and/or during the shipping and/or the transportation in between, and you are probably covered for this kind of incident
- or, you received that specific case long ago and stored it in your own cellar or in a third party warehouse, in that case negotiations might be harder, as
- if it was stored in your cellar, you will have to prove it is not your fault, and your insurance may not cover it, as it will be difficult to prove
- if it was stored in a third party warehouse, then the warehouse will have to prove that it is not their fault, and there again you might or may not be covered by your insurance depending on the incident or what has be proven
Category B: A bottle that has been taken out of its OWC (or OCB), and then... well, basically anything could have happened since it was taken out of its original case..... so, I'll leave it to your imagination to wonder what could have happened to that bottle..... (e.g.: been around the world many times, bad storage and/or transportation conditions, standing-up under the light for months (or years) on the shelves of a retail shop or of a supermarket, etc, etc...)
- It could be the result of a seepage or leakage from another bottle of the same case, meaning that the case may have been exposed to temperatures oscillations/variations (generally higher temperatures) while previously stored and/or during shipping/transit causing for one of the bottle to leak, and therefore give an indication that the wine contained in all the bottles of that specific case may have suffered from heat.
- It could also be the result of an incident like a broken bottle inside the case due to the case being roughed around or even dropped at some point in the previous storage site and/or during shipping/transit causing for one of the bottle to break. In that specific case scenario, it doesn't mean that the wine in the bottle is bad or has suffered from bad external conditions (except being shaken a little at some point, which has no real affect on the quality of the wine). However, the stains may surely decrease the value of the wine in case of resell and this could be a problem.
Does the shape of the bottle correspond to the wine age and vintage? Does the glass, shape and mold marks look too new or too old for its age and vintage? Which type of mold has been used? Is it a typical mold format for this specific wine/label?
|Chateau Gruaud Larose Bottle and Label Evolution Timeline example by ©LeDomduVin 2019|
In the old days, some famous Chateaux were using more Baroque forms and shapes than nowadays classic "Bordeaux" bottle, and the shape of the bottle may have evolved or radically changed with time and vintages. A well-known example is Château Gruaud Larose, which changed the format of its bottle during the 70s and returned to a classic Bordeaux bottle format during the 1980s.
As you can see on this photo/collage above, which is an example of the evolution of the bottle and the label of Chateau Gruaud Larose in a 100 years timeline, the label has evolved and the bottle shape too.
Too fully understand the reason why, it is important to specify that in 1867, Chateau Gruaud Larose was divided in half between 2 families, Baron Sarget and the Bethmann family descendants, who run the divided estate for about 50 years, both producing their own wine at Chateau Gruaud Larose, but under different labels, respectively
- Chateau Gruaud Larose - Sarget
- Chateau Gruaud Larose Faure Bethmann
This explains the differences on the labels in the collage above, with respectively
- the apparition of the Cordier family logo on the vintage 1916 (when they bought the estate in 1917, the vintage 1916 was still in barrels and therefore not bottled yet)
- the name of "Gruaud Larose Faure Bethmann" on the vintage 1918 and 1928 (still owner of half of the Chateau until 1935)
- the name of "Gruaud Larose Sarget" on the vintage 1925 (which the Cordier family didn't change until 1935, when they reunified the Chateau under its initial name after buying the remaining shares)
Other Important details to inspect at first glance
The dots, codes, markings or engraving on the glass left by a specific mold or specifically added by the manufacturer at the request of Chateau. Make sure that the bottle does not bear glass codes which would not or could not have been applied at the time of the vintage.
So, some of the questions about the overall conditions of a bottle will include the following ones (but not only):
- Does the bottle, capsule and label(s) look correct and in conditions reflecting the age of the wine and the vintage?
- Does the bottle look too new for the vintage? (i.e. thicker glass than usual for this vintage or shaped from a recent mold or manufactured rather than hand-blown or from an older type of mold or carrying wrong mold codes, etc...)
- Wrong glass color for the vintage? (until the late 70s, in the Rhone valley, for Jaboulet La Chapelle for example, bottles were brown rather than being green)
- Does it have the correct markings and/or engraving for this vintage?
- Does the depth of the punt correspond to the vintage? (hand-blown bottle and old mold bottle have deeper punt than more recent mold or manufactured bottle)
If not from an Original Wooden Case (OWC) or Original Carton Box (OCB), and the overall bottle conditions are not pristine, you might want to investigate what happens:
- Poor storage conditions? Been exposed to cold or heat? Too humid or too dry? Temperatures and humidity levels oscillations?
- Already been shipped several times to several destinations? Problems during transit and/or shipping? Transported in non-reefer container? Roughed around during transportation? Etc…
- Previously owned several times? and passed from one owner to the next frequently? Poorly handled?
7.2 The Wine Level
Meaning that when you see a bottle for the first time, at first glance (and without going into details or touching it) your eyes inspect automatically (and instinctively with experience) the shape of the bottle and some of its details, but also the level of the wine, as it is usually a clear visual key clue that can help define if the level is acceptable for the vintage or if the bottle has been tampered with and/or eventually if it is a real or a fake bottle, especially for older vintages. (i.e. Top neck / In Neck for a very old bottle is definitely suspicious, and a clear indication that there is something fishy with the bottle without even looking at the capsule and/or the label(s)).
|Chateau Latour 1945 - The Capsule Top - Photo by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
|Chateau Latour 1945 - The Capsule - Photo by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
7.3 The Capsule (condition, color and markings)
|Chateau Latour 1945 - The Cork and markings on the cork - Photo by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
7.4 The Cork (condition and markings)
As stated above, if the markings on the capsule do not correspond to the name, provenance and age of the wine, you might want to ask the seller to cut the capsule to check the cork markings and check its conditions and more particularly its authenticity.
|Chateau Latour 1945 - The label (1/2) - Photo by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
|Chateau Latour 1945 - The label (2/2) - Photo by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
7.5 The label(s) (condition, color, font, paper, drawing, logo, details)
No full bottles of expensive wines were armed or defaced in the following video... 😉
LeDomduVin: Defacing a label of Chateau Latour 1982
LeDomduVin: Defacing labels of expensive bottles of Bordeaux wines (video 1/2)
Let's go back to the bottle and check the color and the sediments.
7.6. The color
|Chateau Latour 1945 - Color and Sediments (1/3) by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
|Chateau Latour 1945 - Color and Sediments (2/3) by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
|Chateau Latour 1945 - Color and Sediments (3/3) by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
7.7 The sediments
|Chateau Latour 1945 - The Punt of the Bottle - Photo by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018|
7.8 The punt (or “le cul de la bouteille” as we say in French)
|Details of a Bordeaux Bottle by ©LeDomduVin 2018|
Any size above (i.e. 4.5L, 5L, 6L, 9L, 12L, 15L, 18L and 24L) are super rare and usually bear a bottle serial number (e.g. 156/200 or bottle number 156 of 200 produced). If the bottle serial number is not stated on the label, a code has usually been laser-printed or embedded or engraved within the glass of the bottle, commonly at the bottom or on the side of the bottle, to trace its provenance and authenticity.
The color and thickness of the glass also has a great importance, and it is necessary to ensure that the quality of the glass and its color correspond to the time of the wine (the vintage but also the period).
In any case be careful of bottle formats that do not exist and/or were never produced or not corresponding to the age of the bottle, like a 5L format for a Bordeaux bottle prior 1945. Or like for Jaboulet, 1975 and 1978 are 730 ml, not 750 ml, and the color of the glass should be brownish-lightship green, not green like newer vintage, etc....
7.10 The vintage
|Engravings example on bottles of Petrus - In the punt for the 1990 vintage and on the shoulder for the 1998 vintage|
Photo taken by Dominique Noel (a.k.a. LeDomduVin) for ©LeDomduVin 2018
Some Chateaux and wineries like Petrus and Haut-Brion (and many others) boast some engravings on their bottles. But as you see on the picture above, for Petrus for example, the engraving of the brand "PETRUS" is not at the same place on the bottle depending on the vintage. In the punt of the bottle for the 1990 vintage and on the shoulder of the bottle for the 1998 vintage, which could be tricky for some people who may not know and/or may not check the punt carefully enough.
7.11 The engraving and codes
These bottles with the brand and/or logo engraved on them are highly valuable on the grey and the black market, fetching high prices just for the empty bottle, understandably more if still with the label on it.
You may not have understood earlier the word "deface" for a wine label or "disfiguring"for a bottle, but you surely understand what "destroyed" and "smashed to pieces" means for an engraved bottles!!! No? Yes? Still don't know what I am talking about? No? Well, the following video will show you how to smash a bottle of wine.
No full bottle of Petrus or Haut-Brion were armed in the following video... 😉
LeDomduVin: Defacing labels and smashing expensive bottles of Bordeaux wines (video 2/2)
💥Work still progress.... to be finished soon💥
7.12 The technologies
All pictures taken by Dominique Noel by and for ©LeDomduVin 2018 subject to copyright