Counterfeiting alcohol is one of the oldest scams in the book. From Crimea's knock-off Prosecco to the slightly more worrying antifreeze vodka being sold in a British nightclub last year, the ol' booze switch-a-roo has been lining dishonest pockets for years.
But not the pockets of a certain Genevan auction house. As The Independent reports, several bottles in a collection of rare wines set to be sold at Beghera Wines for around £2.7 million were withdrawn from auction yesterday after being called out as fakes.
It all started in October, when the Beghera Wines auction house started hyping the sale of its collection of Burgundy wines, claiming they were from the exclusive Domaine de la Romanée Conti estate in France, which produces just 6,000 bottles a year.
Press releases sent out in April by the auction house saw executive director Michael Ganne state that the sale of the wines would "go down in history as being the most significant auction of exceptional wines of the last two decades in continental Europe."
The sale may well go down in history, but for very different reasons.
Don Cornwell, a Los Angeles lawyer with a penchant for fine wines and a history of busting several high profile auctions, was the first to raise his suspicions surrounding the Beghera Wines sale. Posting on well-known online wine forum Wine Berserkers last week, Cornwell ripped into the wines' authenticity, claiming Ganne had admitted in correspondence with him that, despite the auction house implying that the collection had come from a single collector, they were actually sourced from "at least two different Swiss collectors."
Cornwell's post also pointed out obvious mistakes in the auction house's listing of the wines, like the fact that some bottles did not have the correctly embossed glass. Duh, that's wine counterfeiting 101.
Following Cornwell's claims, Beghera Wines removed "five or six" of the lots of wine before the auction took place. Speaking to The Independent, Ganne said that should any of the other wines sold in the auction turn out to be fakes, sales would be nullified and refunded.
MUNCHIES contacted Baghera Wines but was declined comment. Emilie Drouin, media spokesperson for the auction house, did say however that an official statement on the controversy would be released tomorrow.
In the meantime, we'll be toasting Don's detective work with a glass of our finest (ahem) Champagne.