Friday, December 27, 2019

Potentially Fake Petrus 1961

Potentially Fake Petrus 1961

Petrus 1961 - Close up on labels ©LeDomduVin 2019
Petrus 1961 - Close up on labels ©LeDomduVin 2019

A few days ago, with my colleague, we cleaned up the wine cellar from all the empty bottles consumed within the company, over the last few weeks (as we do on a monthly basis). 

And, as usual, I put some empty bottles of the oldest vintages and most expensive wines aside, for 3 main reasons: 
  • First, because, even if empty, these old ladies deserve a second life as a trophy on a shelf in an office or in a cellar (or anywhere else), as, after all, they are pieces of history that have resisted the passage of time when they were corked, and will continue even without their content. 
  • Secondly, because there is always a sense of pride for a Sommelier (like me) to keep old vintages of top-tears bottles around, more especially when I have had the pleasure to open, prepare, taste, decant (if necessary) and serve them (even drunk a part of them in some occasions), for memory's sake.    
  • Thirdly, and more importantly, as it is very useful to keep them as they can contribute to constituting a library of references for genuine bottles, as well as for fake or counterfeit bottles. 
In fact, they can come very handy, for a Wine Quality Control Director (like me), when in doubt while doing an inspection or authentication of some bottles prior to purchase them or to receive them at the warehouse, to compare them and check/verify the authenticity of the bottles, labels, capsules, corks, etc...     

And while putting these empty bottles aside, I noticed two magnums of Petrus 1961 (in the picture above), and I had a sudden doubt about the authenticity of these 2 mags, more especially the magnum on the left-hand side on the picture. It presented too many obvious faults and defaults to my liking to be genuine (in my opinion). 

Which prompted me to make a video about it (and logically this post afterwards) to try to explain the reasons why I believe it is not a genuine magnum of Petrus 1961, by comparing it to other bottles of Petrus 1961 I also kept in the cellar for that purpose.   

Here is the video and the link (if interested) 

Did you like the video? 

I tried to keep simple and clear, but for those of you who did not get everything and may not want to watch it again to grasp some the points they still have questions about, I will recap the main points discussed in the video further below in this post.  

However, prior to going into the details and reasons why I believe this is a fake magnum of Petrus 1961, let me tell you a little more about what I do and what are my roles and duties as a Wine Quality Control Director. A position that I have been occupying for the past 8 years now. 

What is a Wine Quality Control Director (QC)? 

To make it short, let's say that at my current job, as a Wine Quality Control Director (for the Wine Division of a large corporate company), I'm in charge of the followings:
  • Quality Control, 
  • Standard Operating Procedures (implementation and maintenance), 
  • Market Prices Analyses, 
  • Market Trend, 
  • Stock Valuation, 
  • Provenance, 
  • Authentication, 
  • Wine inspection prior to purchasing and at goods receiving, 
  • Supervising containers unloading, 
  • Stock accuracy: inventory, stocktaking, cycle-counting
  • Wine warehouses and cellars QC operations (conditions, environments control and security), 
  • Prevention, 
  • Staff training, 
  • ERP System, 
  • Quality Management System, 
  • Compliance, 
  • Audits, 
  • etc...
(And even: Wine Classes, Wine Events and Wine Promotion, as well as French tutoring, French Classes among other things).

I know, it seems like a lot, but once managed as a daily routine, it is not that bad. 

Standard Operating Procedures

So, parts of my duties consist to create and implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) within the various departments related to the wine division (Purchase and Sales, Cellars and Logistics, and Quality Control, etc...), in order to clearly define, step by step, the official or usual way that people are expected to do particular things within the respective departments of the wine division (or, to some extent, even within the company or organization). 

Once created and implemented, and adjusted/amended/corrected if necessary, depending on the evolution of the business model as well as the evolution and changes of the department's daily operations, I need to make sure that they are compliant. Meaning that they are conforming to the rules (such as specification, policy, standard or even law). 

Within the wine division, these procedures are put in place to manage and control both the people and  the goods, as well as the environments, conditions and security, and clearly describe: 
  • How daily operations are conducted and done, and by who?  
    • who does what, when and how (and even why)
  • How things are to be done (and in which order) to prevent from 
    • a mistake, accident, incident to happen
    • security to be breached 
    • and/or even theft to occur 
  • And what needs to be done and how if any of the above occurs

These SOPs are created and implemented for all the following respective daily main operations at the office(s) and at the various points of storage (warehouses/cellars):
  • Purchase Order / Wine Receiving 
  • Wine Inspection / Authentication
  • Wine Receipt in ERP System
  • Put Away
  • Wine Transfer
  • Sales Order
  • Wine Withdrawal
  • Wine Delivery  
  • Wine Pickup
  • Others (too many to list them all)

Once the daily operations system and related SOPs are done and implemented, and the staff has been trained, I can move on to focus on the product itself: the wine.

Wine Provenance, Inspection and Authentication

My role as Wine QC Director consists predominantly in

  • verifying and/or counterchecking 
    • the reliability and integrity of the wine merchants we are buying from
    • the origin, provenance, conditions of the wines (historic of the bottles, previous storage conditions, etc...)
    • the cost prices compared to the market 
  • doing the bottle's inspection and authentication (if needed) prior to buying the bottles, if possible, otherwise at good receiving in order to prevent fake or counterfeit bottles of wine to enter our warehouses and cellars. 

For example, when our Purchasing manager wants to purchase wines, a specific SOP is telling us that the following main steps (SOP are generally more detailed, this just an example) have to be done prior to being able to purchase the wine: 

Wine Purchase Simplified Process ©LeDomduVin 2019
Wine Purchase Simplified Process ©LeDomduVin 2019

A. Wine Purchasing
  • The Purchasing Manager (PM) 
    • receives an offer or receives a specific request from a client (or from the boss) 
    • sources the wine from Négociants or trusted/reliable wine merchants, 
    • negotiates a reasonable price to generate a minimum of profit based on the current market price and availability
    • asks for a quotation

  • The Wine Quality Control Director (QC) (based on the quotation)
    • verifies the reliability and integrity of the negociant or wine merchant: 
      • reliable? trustable? 
      • did we work with them in past? 
      • how is our relationship with them?
      • are they in possession of the stocks or not?
      • if not, where are the stocks? and what are the current conditions of storage?
      • are they buying the wines directly at the property? or via a negociant or official agent? or via a third party?  
      • are they able to guarantee the conditions and provenance of the wine?
    • verifies the integrity of the source: 
      • honest about the conditions and provenance of the wines? 
      • practising fair prices?
      • flexible with the payment terms as well as the shipping/delivery terms? 
    • does a Market Analysis to: 
      • establish the fairness of the quoted prices compared to the current market 
      • and to verify the potential Gross Profit Margin (GPM) compared with the average market prices   
    • asks if possible to inspect the wines prior to buying it? if possible and if locally sourced;
    • if not, asks for high-res quality pictures (if possible, and/or documents/proofs of origin if available) of the wines (cases or even bottles if available) to determine:
      • the quality
      • the conditions
      • the authenticity    
      • the provenance
    • inform PM if reliable or not, or too expensive, etc...   

  • The Cellars and Logistics Manager 
    • Liaises with shipping companies and gets quotations to compare and estimate 
      • the cost of shipping (door to door, reefer container, plane or boat, etc...)
      • the time of the shipping (when, how long, etc...)
    • Choose the shipping company based on cost/efficiency/security/service/quality (the cheapest are not always the worst, and the more expensive are not always the best either)
    • Liaises with the negotiant or wine merchant to arrange for shipping/logistics details
    • Arrange for the ETD (Estimated Time of Departure) and ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) with both the negotiant or wine merchant and the shipping company
    • Inform and keep the warehouse team updated 

B. Wine Purchase Order Receiving

In most case scenarios, unless you buy directly at the property or from a Négociant or an official agent or a trusted wine merchant, it is going to be very difficult for you to get high-res pictures and/or documents/proofs of origin of the wines prior buying it. Let's say nearly impossible.

Same regarding the provenance and/or current (or even previous) storage's conditions, there again, unless you buy directly at the property or from a Négociant or an official agent or a trusted wine merchant, you will never know if what they are telling you is the truth or not.

Yet, that is true that it may also happen with the Négociants, official agents or "supposedly" trusted wine merchants. They may tell you that the wine comes from directly from the property, while they may have bought it back from one of their clients or from a third party seller. You'll never really know in fact. You can only trust your guts, unfortunately.   

That's why it is very important to work with trusted wine merchants who can give some guarantee about the provenance, or, if not, are willing to let you inspect the wines  (if sourced locally), and/or send you some high-res pictures of the wines for you to check them prior to buying them.

But because it is not always possible to check them prior to buying them (either physically or on pictures), even with the merchants you know and trust, that's where the role and job of Wine Quality Control is crucial, as he or she will have to inspect and/or even authenticate the wines at good receiving at the warehouse (or at the store or wherever they have been ship/deliver to) prior storing the wines, in order to immediately inform the vendor and sent the wines back, if not satisfied and/or if the conditions are not as described on the email, the catalogue, the pictures or any other documents provided prior buying them.

And the SOPs states that at good receiving:
  • The Cellars and Logistics Team
    • Arrange for delivery time at the warehouse
    • Unload the truck or container, weigh the pallets/cases and mark them
    • Count the pallets, cases (and eventual loose bottles) based on the shipping documents and the purchase order delivery note 
    • Bring the wines to the inspections zone (usually an area prior to or within the storage area dedicated to inspecting the wines prior to being put away into the storage area)
  • The QC team 
    • Supervise/help with the unloading of the truck or container
    • Take pictures during the unloading to have proof of how the pallets/cases were when they were delivered and unloaded
    • Make sure that none of the wines have been put away in the storage area without being inspected first
    • Proceeds to the inspection prior to the Cellar and Logistics team put the wines away

Wine Inspection - Authentication basic tools by ©LeDomduVin 2018
Wine Inspection - Authentication basic tools by ©LeDomduVin 2018

C. Wine Inspection

  • The QC team proceeds to the inspection case by case
    • A case of wine is put on the inspection table or bench
    • If the case is an unopened Original Wooden Case (OWC) or Orignal Carton Box (OCB):
      • the case/box is not opened
      • it is inspected carefully to check of any signs/traces of opening attempts 
        • If pristine, a sticker or security tape is put on it
        • If not pristine (meaning there are signs/traces of a previous opening), the case has to be opened  
      • the case is weighed to check if it has a correct weight
        • If correct, a sticker with the case weight is printing and put on the case
        • Then the case/box is banded with a band featuring the company logo for security reason
        • If not correct, the case has to be opened to check its content 
    • If the case has been previously opened, then tape resealed or nail closed (no matter if OWC, OCB or not) and or if the case/box has not been opened, but it is not an OWC/OCB and/or does not present any markings of any kind to indicate what is in the case/box, then it has to be opened to do do the quantitative/qualitative inspection in order to check the quantity and quality (conditions) of its content.
    • QC staff should always come prepared for an inspection and have their tools at the ready for inspection (here is a list with the most essential items to have for a wine inspection)
      • A portable led flashlight (or light torch, however you call it) if it does blacklight even better 
      • A magnifier
      • A ruler
      • A cutter
      • Transparent tape
      • Tissue paper or wet tissue
      • A rollerball pen or a permanent marker
      • Small size Post It paper
      • A camera or smartphone to take pictures
    • During the inspection/authentication process, QC checks and take pictures of the followings (taking into consideration the vintage and origin of the wine, of course):
      • Overall bottle conditions
      • Label (pristine or damaged)
      • Capsule (pristine or damaged)
      • Level (correct, too high or too low)
      • Cork (depressed or protruding, check the vintage if possible for old and expensive bottles, and only if previously agreed with the vendor)
      • Color (correct, too young, too old) 
      • Sediments (present or not)
      • Bottle marks 
    • If all the bottles of wine of the same case pass the inspection: 
      • The bottles are carefully put back into the case/box, 
      • The case/box is turn resealed/closed
      • A piece of security tape or sticker is affixed on the case/box,
      • And/or the case/box is banded
      • The case/box can now be given back to the Cellar and Logistics team to be put away in the storage area
    • If some of the bottles of wine of the same case do not pass the inspection: 
      • The full case is put aside (either in the inspection area if secure or right behind the door at the entrance of the storage area, not to be put away yet and not to be mixed with other cases either).  
      • An email including details of the discrepancies/defaults + pictures is sent immediately to the vendor
      • Negotiations begin on getting something for the unsatisfactory bottles, either: 
        • a replacement
        • and/or a discount 
        • and/or sent back the bottles and get partial or full reimbursement  
      • Depending on the negotiation's result, 
        • Bottles are replaced
        • A new invoice showing a discount is sent
        • The bottles are sent back and reimbursed

Although it might be interesting for of you, I will stop here regarding the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), otherwise, you are going to be bored to the core, reading all these details. (if interested on the inspection's details, read one my previous post on the subject here)

However, the reason I wanted to share with you (parts of) these SOP's details, is to show you that we have an elaborate system in place to prevent from fake and counterfeit wine bottles to infiltrate our warehouses and cellars in our various storage locations, and that theoretically we should not have any suspicious bottles in our stocks (either fake or counterfeit or just in bad conditions) like this magnum of Petrus 1961.

Petrus 1961 - Close up on the suspicious label ©LeDomduVin 2019
Petrus 1961 - Close up on the suspicious label ©LeDomduVin 2019

Yet, it is not the case, the proof is that suspicious magnum of Petrus 1961 (in the picture above) managed to get into our stock.     

💥Work in Progress - to be finished soon 💥

Cheers! Santé!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noel)

NB: Over the last few years, I wrote quite a few posts on or including fake and counterfeit wines (if interested read the 2 most detailed ones here and here)

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