Often, in our mission to provide our clients with the highest level of service possible, we must verify the legitimacy of bottles. Our staunch anti-fraud stance has been well-documented in the past and we have taken many unprecedented measures to ensure that we only conduct transactions with wines of traceable provenance. This position is exemplified by our continued support of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Bordeaux which we partnered with to develop a series of tests using PIXE and Caesium 137 analysis to verify the age of both glass bottles and the wine contained therein.
Here is a bit of further insight into how this verification process begins. This week we were approached by a private individual regarding our interest in selling an Imperial of 1945 Petrus. The first step in any potential transaction like this is that we must verify, to the very best of our abilities, the legitimacy of the wine.
Upon receiving the bottle at our London offices, we began a visual inspection. The bottle provided the following clues:
1.) Label – The label was clearly photo-copied. This was easy to identify because the visual ‘texture’ lines on the front of the label were neither tactile, nor did they press through to the back-side of the label (which was peeling in one corner so both sides could easily be inspected). It is important to note that simply because the label is photo-copied does not automatically mean the wine is fraudulent. In the 1960s and 1970s many chateaux and negociants photo-copied labels as replacements when they were missing the originals.
2.) Capsule – The capsule was worn, but showed no signs of seepage or much physical deterioration. It was somewhat discoloured and the foil had clearly been twisted out of shape at some point. The capsule was also imprint-branded as Petrus and had ‘Mis En Bouteilles Au Chateau’ printed on the side.
3.) Cork – We were unable to see the cork because it was entirely hidden by the capsule, however, the cork was pushing/bulging slightly.
4.) Additional Labels – There were two further labels on the bottle, one at the base of the neck (front) reading ‘Caves du Chapon Fin – Bordeaux’ (restaurant) and one on the back reading ‘Selection Alexis Lichine’ (negociant).
After the above observations were made, it was established that the next step would be to carefully cut the capsule to reveal the sides of the cork. This would allow us to verify whether the cork was chateau-branded or not.
Upon receiving explicit permission from the owner, Julien Froger, head of our Bordeaux and Hong Kong offices, served as chief surgeon for the operation. Despite carefully peeling back three-quarters of the capsule, Julien was unable to clearly see any identifying markings on the cork.
This leads us to believe that the bottle may not be genuine. However, the verdict as it stands now is that we still do not know. The next step is that we are going to see if the owner would like the wine sent to the Bordeaux lab for further analysis.