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How to avoid fine wine fraud

Mattia Tabacco, Head of Buying and Rare Wines at Oeno, on the authenticity of fine wine – and how your portfolio can be protected from wine fraud

Domaine Romanée-Conti

Fine wine has grown to become a popular asset-backed investment, with the collector market booming during the pandemic and bringing exciting diversification options to retail investors.

At stake, and very much assumed, is access to authentic and genuine stock. The world’s finest wine producers have long been integrating sophisticated anti-fraud measures into their products to stay ahead of counterfeiters, yet it’s difficult to keep fake bottles out of the system, and harder to kick them out once inside.

According to the world’s leading experts on wine fraud, there may be as much as $4bn worth of counterfeit wine around the world – equivalent to the annual value of fine wine production globally. At a Hong Kong auction in November, a methuselah (six-litre bottle) of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 2002 was sold for a record US$398,400. The sale was later rescinded after inspection raised some obvious red flags, and a second methuselah of the 2000 vintage was then withdrawn.

Labels as rare as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti have long been popular with counterfeiters around the world, yet it is far from the only target name – and fraudulent wine remains a prevalent challenge at all price points. Today, wine fraud comes in all shapes and manners, from cold-calling, to fake wine buying companies who hijack well-known investment companies and certifications.

Recently, police in Catalonia discovered ‘irregularities’ with specific wines that claimed to be certified by Denominations of Origin Priorat, Montsant, and Terra Alta – increasing the value of an inferior wine.

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While it’s hard for investors to identify extremely well-made counterfeits, wine investment companies and other participants in the chain are increasingly taking it upon themselves to protect investors’ money through their own expertise and due diligence. Oeno Group takes things one step further, with every wine acquisition meticulously mapped to ensure authenticity and impeccable provenance.

A rarity among UK wine companies, Oeno embraces diversity with a team of international wine experts from France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Australia and South Africa. Their varied expertise offers excellent insights and connections to wineries all over the world.

Primary access to wine directly from the cellar, and from reputable importers is the single, safest wine to acquire wine (provenance mapping) but sometimes Oeno will also buy from trusted private collectors and strong auditing methods are required.

Oeno works with the most credible experts on wine fraud, and has developed an in-house anti-fraud procedure to audit and authenticate wine that is at the greatest risk of fraud. Physical and microscope checks of the glass, capsule, corks and labels and matching against a comprehensive database are just some of the steps involved. Only wine that has passed provenance mapping or authentication steps are eligible for sale in the company’s luxury boutique, Oeno House in the heart of the City of London.

“After a year of intensive research and development, Oeno has created a unique service with the launch of our authentication process. Wines that pass our auditing are physically identified as certified, and our restaurant clients and collectors esteem these bottles for their preserved value. We have made it our mission to give our clients complete peace of mind with every bottle they buy through us.” 

For more information on how to enjoy and invest in fine wine, see oenogroup.com

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