- The Underground Wine Letter - http://www.undergroundwineletter.com -




In issue 4 of Forbes Life Summer 2012 different “experts” offer opinions on the price trend of cars, watches, antique furniture and wine. I am going to stay out of the crystal ball gazing game for cars, watches, and antique furniture. I know a little about cars, and very little about watches and antique furniture. However, I certainly do not know enough on any of these subjects to offer an opinion on prices. But, neither does the person chosen by Forbes to offer an opinion on wine who chose old Burgundies as his area of expertise. In my opinion, that was a bad choice on both counts. Here, after buying, collecting, and drinking old Burgundies for over 40 years and writing about it for nearly as long,  I feel I have enough knowledge and experience to offer a contrary opinion even if Forbes did not seek me out! But, they also did not contact me when the Forbes family  famously bought the allegedly bogus bottle of 1787 Lafite and put it in a window where the cork fell through. But that was allegedly a “Bordeaux” so maybe they had one of the great “Bordeaux” experts render and opinion. There they had several choices and several of them were drinking the “Hardy Kool Aid”. Hardy Rodenstock (a fake name) was early on involved with a lot of questionable bottles including the 1787 bottles of Lafite (to see my article on my early encounters with Hardy Rodenstock click her [1]e).  So what?  Easy come, easy go. A few hundred grand here and a few hundred grand there, what’s the difference? Besides they got a zillion $ of publicity for their money!  So with that, here is what one of the 100 point boys who participated in the Hardy Rodenstock wine extravaganza follies had to say in the Forbes article:

“…With the FBI’s recent arrest of a prominent rare wine dealer and one of Burgundy’s most respected vignerons, Laurent Ponsot, declaring that he believes that “80 percent of pre-1980 Burgundy is fraudulent” this category gets a huge sell….”

HA!  First of all, with all due respect to Laurent Ponsot, who has been a diligent fighter against wine fraud, there is no way that “80 percent of pre-1980 Burgundy is fraudulent.” In relation to the total number of Burgundies out there from this period, there have not been that many counterfeiters and not that many wines have been counterfeited. In fact, the only place where that might be true is in the case of a few wines that are considered great and were made in very small quantities. This would include things like 1945 Romanee-Conti where only about 50 cases were made and counterfeiters have been recently selling it by the case. What a joke! And, if you were duped into buying those cases or bottles you did not have a clue about the history of the wine (to read the article about the alleged fraud click here [2]) [2]. The best vintages from the best producers are a very small part of the total Burgundy market. And, there are many old Burgundies lying in cellars all over the world that have been there for years. These include thousands of private cellars and the cellars of major Burgundy negociants. These wines are not counterfeit. One can never be sure whether or not some negociant wines might have been “topped off” over the years. The Underground talked about this decades ago (to read the article click here [3]). But, that is far different than using inexpensive wine to put in empty bottles with famous and rare labels (including some for wines that never existed) and making truly counterfeit wine.

Second, even if the 80% number were close to being true, what would happen to the rest of the bottles with impeccable provenance? That’s easy! The price would go up. And the price would go up HUGE! The exact opposite of the “huge sell” that is predicted.

Finally, I know that some are saying that the recent decline in overall wine prices has a correlation to the recent fraud indictment (to read the wine fraud article click here [4]). I don’t buy that either. How about the condition of the world economy and the fear of economic slow downs, recession, depression and financial chaos? These fears have accelerated at a startling rate since March. These world wide economic fears trump everything. So get real!

From that perspective, the total world wine market is no bigger than a flea on an elephant and difficult to pin point! But, it is nonetheless correlated as are all tangible things of value. However, there is no reason to lose your sleep over a prediction that old Burgundy is a “huge sell.” It just ain’t so. And, this “expert” prediction is just as likely to be off the mark as some of  the “expert” wine descriptions over the years (to read an article on that subject click here [5]).   Caveat emptor!


In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson