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Had the always slightly disorienting experience today of appearing on television to provide about 32 seconds of commentary, this time on the growing problem of counterfeit high-end wines. The segment aired on CNBC in the middle of the day, which does make me wonder who among the percentage of the population that buys $4,000 dollar bottles of fake 1982 Pètrus might conceivably have been listening to me...but no matter. Bring on the fame. Plus it's always pleasant to sit in a small dark room with a newsfeed stuck in your ear, talking to the lens of camera pointed directly at your face from about four feet away.
In any case, the whole thing was spurred by this morning's WSJ story (no link; subscriber only) on the fact that Federal Prosecutors have been sending subpoenas to auction houses including Zachy's and Christie's; which action is but part of an investigation set in motion after some rich collectors, it seems, got ticked off over wine sellers not taking adequate responsibility for the possibility that wines they sell might turn out to be fakes. Or at least that's how these particular rich collectors feel. Since I'm neither a lawyer nor an auctioneer, I can't say what the legal rule is regarding the unwitting sale of wine (or art, or anything) that turns out not to be what it claims to be, and since I don't make a habit of buying $1,000+ bottles of wine, I'm largely not in the risk pool for getting ripped off. But it will be an interesting story to follow, and, in truth, there really is likely to be more and more faked wine floating around in the upper-level secondary market. With Christie's alone making $56 million with wine auctions alone last year, and with sales like six magnums of '85 DRC La Romanée-Conti going for roughly $170,000 last March, there are clearly a lot of wealthy people out there looking for the world's greatest wines. The criminals of the world are going to be only too happy to supply them with ersatz versions, especially at those prices.