Billionaires have it rough. Per New York magazine last week: “Energy magnate William Koch is suing Internet tycoon Eric Greenberg for selling him $300,000 worth of vintage ‘as-is’ bottles of wine that he claims are fakes.”
Rich or poor, we all want to get what we pay for—and we all should be wary when buying old wine. John Paddon, wine director for Caesars Palace, says counterfeiting really took off with the popularity and scarcity of 1961 and 1982 vintages of Bordeaux. When $50 bottles become $5,000 bottles, opportunists start refilling.
Among Paddon’s many buying tips:
1. “Always deal with the most scrupulous people that you can find.”
2. Buy in cases to check label uniformity.
3. Cork is a tell-tale sign.
4. If you can afford amazing wine, maybe you can afford a sommelier to verify its quality.
If you’re buying pre-1900, that’s serious. “For those types of authentications, you’re talking about so much money that there’s a chemical-composition test,” Paddon says. Not only does it carbon date wine, it tells you (within about 20 miles) where it came from.
Paddon says there’s only so much we can do to protect ourselves. Plus, most of us don’t know the difference between a decent fake and a real treasure. “I can teach anybody the difference between good and bad in about 20 minutes,” Paddon says. “But the difference between good and great? That kinda takes a lifetime.”