Wine Scandals, Fakes and Forgery with Maureen Downey (Video)


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Maureen Downey’s Wine Authentication Training Program coming to New York City and Hong Kong this Spring!

How important is it to your current job (or your overall career) to be able to identify counterfeit wine? If the answer is anything other than “not at all,” we want to invite you to sign up for a two-day course that will save you money and embarrassment, and will build your clientele’s trust in your wine advice and experience.

Maureen Downey, a world-renowned expert in counterfeit wine identification, and her team will hold a one-of-a-kind training course on the intricacies of wine authentication in New York on March 21 and March 22, and in Hong Kong on February 28 – March 1, 2019. The three-part course will cover the most common practices of wine counterfeiters and the basics of wine authentication. Participants will learn the risks, the tells, and how to prevent counterfeit bottles from becoming a part of their collections.

About the course:

The complete wine authentication program takes place over two days. Beginning with a presentation on the first day, Maureen will instruct the class on a check list of the 16 points authenticators need to consider when assessing a wine, including an in-depth look at some of the most important aspects of the bottle itself. You’ll learn what counterfeiters do and how they do it, and most importantly, what expert wine authenticators look for. You’ll dive into the intricacies of ink, printing, paper, and typography as Downey takes you through comparisons of the top counterfeited producers, the top counterfeited vintages, and the most-counterfeited regions. The discussion will also cover the available low-tech and high-tech anti-fraud measures being developed for use on labels and in the glass itself. Attendee work history and two professional references are required for admission into the course.

Level 1 Authentication Training follows the introductory lecture with a hands-on workshop featuring examples of real and fake bottles, with students being encouraged to bring in suspect bottles to use as examples; they will go home with an authentication toolkit.

Authentication Training Level II continues the following day and is targeted to members of the trade who work with rare wine on a daily basis or who seek to become wine authenticators. Downey expands on the topics covered in Level I and students will spend significant hands-on time comparing counterfeit bottles (from Downey’s collection of fakes) with legitimate bottles. Participants will gain a thorough understanding of the authentication process and by the conclusion of the day will have a firm grasp on the ins and outs of the authentication of rare and valuable wine. The class size is limited, and Level I Training is required before attending the Level II course.

About Maureen Downey:

Founder Maureen Downey, DWS, CWE, FWS, is considered the world’s foremost expert in counterfeit wine identification. She has inspected hundreds of millions of dollars of fine wine.

She works regularly with a broad range of collectors and vendors to determine the authentication of fine and rare wines, and has lent her expertise in court in numerous high-profile cases. She provided pre-trial consultation to the FBI and United States Department of Justice in the prosecution of Rudy Kurniawan and has assisted and testified on behalf of Bill Koch in the Koch v. Greenberg proceedings.

Her database on counterfeit wine is unmatched in the world, and her experience and expertise on the subject led to the creation of, the first-ever educational resource in the world focusing on wine counterfeiting, wine fraud, and wine authentication.


For more information about the Authentication Training program and the pricing of the course, please visit the website at WineFraud Authentication Training 2019 or contact Patti Haverty at
Chai Consulting/
land: 415.931.4541

Peter Hellman22:40 Hi Natalie–My brother-in-law gave me a bottle of burgundy called La Trache from DRC. It says at the bottom of the label “Mise au bouteille au sale de bain.” Could you ask Maureen if she thinks this bottle is authentic?
Top Fan

Lise Charest Gagne24:48 I’m always looking for the wording on bottles. It’s misleading unless you really know what to look for example Oakes ages (staves) ect. Isn’t that type of thing being looked at? I guess without the “rules” of designated areas is fair game. I still find it slimy.

Peter Hellman38:22 Here’s a link to “In Vino Duplicitas, the Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire”:://…/dp/1615193928/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0…
Peter Hellman32:30 Hi Natalie–Thanks for mentioning my book, In Vino Duplicitas, the Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire. It would make a great holiday book for any friend or relative who’s interested in wine! Easy to find on Amazon.


Peter Hellman47:56 In the wine world, Maureen deserves to be riding a white stallion!!
Fred Clift12:38 I’m not a sommelier but isn’t buying an old dusty bottle of wine risky? …especially from the 1960’s???


Courtney Quinn30:08 Can you share any wineries that are already using block chain tracking?
Elizabeth MacSween50:28 Fascinating


Top Fan

Rachelle O’Connor11:46 Hello from Ottawa..🥂🎄🍾…great to hear Maureen – so interesting!


Top Fan

Paul E Hollander22:43 Do you find that it is only old world wines or are new world wines subject to counterfeiting also?


Fred Clift49:57 The “Collectors” of rare wines has to be a small niche of the world population, seems they could rely on an “Expert” to authenticate a wine, the rich should be able to afford it!


Top Fan

Lise Charest Gagne27:54 Typos sorry ^🍷 oak aged vs staves..


Lynda Fedor Michaels50:28 Thank you Maureen for sharing your expertise.
Top Fan

Lori Sweet8:09 Amazing prizes!!


Courtney Quinn22:06 Hello from San Diego. Met Maureen in Rioja in June. Great to hear new information from you today!
Top Fan

Lise Charest Gagne43:59 Wondering if all these problems have driven the new world wines to be drink now ready?


Fred Clift14:41 Do you ever test rare wines with Gas Chromatography equipment?


Patti Wright Hollander49:42 Absolutely one of the best and most informative interviews ever!
Top Fan

Lise Charest Gagne17:50 Hello miss Natalie and Maureen.I have a chemistry background this is facing. So the wine was tainted by radio isotopes?


Top Fan

Lise Charest Gagne33:08 CSI, science, investigators, mixed with wine OMG this is my dream career




Maureen Downey

Combatting wine fraud is part and parcel of Maureen’s appreciation of the hard work, skill and artistry that goes into creating great wine. Struck by passionate collectors’ needs for qualified advisory services with their wine collections, Maureen founded Chai Consulting in 2005 to help them focus on their individual needs and passions. For those whose inventories have gone from hobby to headache, the Chai Consulting team organizes wines, recommends storage methods, implements inventory management systems and frees resources in unwanted inventory into surpluses to purchase new treasures. The Chai Consulting team now manages some of the world’s largest and most impressive collections, while continuing to help those just starting out or growing collections, be that for personal pleasure or investment purposes.

With over 20 years of in depth wine industry experience, Maureen Downey stands out as an independent expert on fine and rare wine, and the foremost authority on counterfeit wine and has compiled the largest database on the subject in the world. Specializing in authentication and valuation, Maureen has inspected hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of wine in the course of advising the world’s top collectors, auction houses, wine merchants, restaurants and hotels. In 2014, Chai Consulting received US trademarks for The Chai Method, Wine Authentication and The Chai Method Wine Valuation.

Maureen has also advised the FBI and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in a number of high profile cases. She worked closely with the FBI on the Rudy Kurniawan case, advising them for many years in the initial investigation and in the subsequent lead up to trial. She also consulted for the DOJ prior to trial. Through her comprehensive pre-sentencing reports, which the defence counsel did not contest, she was instrumental in increasing both jail sentence Kurniawan received and the damages apportioned to his victims.

Maureen has assisted and testified for Bill Koch including in Koch v. Greenberg, and has advised him in cases settled out of court including settlements agreed with Acker Merrall & Condit and Royal Wine Merchants. She has also been the expert in numerous other cases in which her detailed and meticulous reports helped victims receive reparation and compensation, including high-profile cases such as that brought by the Proka brothers against Charlie Trotter.

Maureen’s interest in wine began officially while she was studying at Boston University. In her junior year, she and the BU Wine Team won Kevin Zraly’s International Wine Competition. Shortly after graduating she received her sommelier certification, and went on to manage some of New York’s top restaurants including Lespinasse, Felidia and Tavern on the Green.

Maureen subsequently spent six years as a fine and rare wine specialist at top brick-and-mortar auction houses. It was during this time that Maureen honed her skills in fine and rare wine appraisal, valuation, financial trends of global fine wine markets, and wine inventory management. It was also during this time that she discovered a fake wine for the first time. Although her find was unpopular at her workplace, Maureen does not flinch in the face of a challenge, and the vindication of her call by one of the experts in the field led her to hone her skills in this area further, realizing she had a natural talent for it.

Today she is an active wine judge participating in international wine and spirit competitions in the US and abroad. She has her Diploma in Wines & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in London, and is a Certified Wine Educator. She also is a Certified Spanish Wine Educator an International Bordeaux Tutor and is accredited by the French Government as a French Wine Scholar and Instructor. As a columnist for, Maureen continually educates collectors and the public about wine collection, wine fraud, and how to avoid fake wines, among other topics. In December 2012, industry magazine Drinks Business named Maureen as one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Wine”.

Maureen is quoted regularly in both print and broadcast media and writes a monthly column for, focusing on collector issues and answering collector’s questions.


Full Transcript:

Natalie: 00:01 Alright, well we’ve talked about this a little bit in the past about
wine fakes and wife forgery, but I am fascinated with this. What
propels someone to try to fake a thousand or more dollars a
bottle of wine, a worth, a thousand dollars and what propels
someone to buy it? Why weren’t they doing their homework? I
mean just that whole thing about human nature, forgeries, and
fakes. Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to explore here
tonight on the Sunday supper club. I’m Natalie MacLean, editor
of Canada’s largest wine review site and Natalie

Natalie: 01:03 Let’s hope it’s real, real wine. Not a fake one, All right. Our
guest this evening is known as the Sherlock Holmes of wines.
She is an expert on rare wines and an authority on wine fraud,
counterfeit and fine wine authentication. She earned a degree
in hospitality from Boston University and she took the advanced
some of the exams at the age of 23. Over the past 20 years, she
has inspected hundreds of millions of dollars worth of both
authentic and counterfeit wine.

Natalie: 02:08 She advises some of the world’s top collectors in purchasing,
selling, and managing their collections with her firm Shay
consulting based in San Francisco. She has assisted the
government prosecution in the biggest wine counterfeiting
cased, ever tried by the US government and continues to work
with law enforcement to investigate wine fraud cases. You can
also catch her in the new Netflix film, Sour Grapes, and she joins
me live now from her home in San Francisco. Welcome to the
Sunday supper club, Maureen Downing. Hello. Hi. Oh, pleasure.
We are fascinated by this topic, Maureen. to get us started,
maybe you can tell us why you got you became interested in the
whole wine fraud. You’ve got a great wine background

Maureen: 03:00 and training. But what intrigued you about wind fraud? for me, I
started learning about counterfeit wine really when I was,
working at a wine auction house in New York. I was in it wrong
company and started to, encounter counterfeit wine. The only
way that I knew that it was counterfeit is because if you line
bottles up, one of them doesn’t look the same. It’s, it goes back
to the sesame street painting of one of these kids is doing their
own thing and it didn’t fit. And as soon as I started finding that I
thought it was just, it was just crazy and I started to learn more
and more about it. but a little run in with Hardy Rodenstock
where he taught me a thing or two in the process of making
sure he wasn’t buying his own counterfeit wine and I just
started to really notice it. I have a little, a little bit of OCD goes a
long way when you’re trying to look at anomalies. So that
helped. and then I became really fascinated with nobody else seemed
to care. So all of those things kind of came together and
have propelled me through my career for the last 20 years.

Natalie: 04:10 Wow. Now Hardy Rodenstock is that the character, the central
figure in Benjamin Wallaces billionaire’s vinegar.

Maureen: 04:18 He is Hardy Rodenstock. His real name was Meinhard Görke, he
was a German music promoter, turned a wine aficionado,
turned creator and peddler of some of the most famous
counterfeits that we know because so many of them got 100
points which really kind of created the market moving forward.
He’s kind of the, he’s the godfather of modern counterfeiting.

Natalie: 04:46 Quite a distinction being ground zero for counterfeiting. Now.
When you say 100 points, are you referring to probably Robert
Parker scores or wine spectator?

Maureen: 04:56 I am. I am. So what happened when in the eighties when
Robert Parker was coming up, he had several different vendors
that he worked with, people that he knew, people that were,
that seemed to illegitimate and one of those were the guys that,
excuse me at a row of wine merchants. And they introduced
Robert Parker to this, a Hardy Rodenstock man who seemed to
have all of these amazing wines and you know, And it’s you
know, there is some question because nobody has experienced
tasting these wines over and over again for maybe David
Peppercorn. But you know, overtime wine changes so much
that you cannot. And they were given 100 points and he wrote
descriptions and those descriptions have been used by other
counterfeiters to create counterfeits as well. And we know that
Hardy Rodenstock made quite a number of benefits himself.

Natalie: 06:05 Wow. That is quite the story So, Maureen you’re offering
generously two prizes, one is a year subscription to wine fraud.
Tell us what that is and why someone would want it.

Maureen: 06:49 So is a membership-based online educational
resource for anybody who wants to learn more about, why
inauthenticity wine counterfeiters, what counterfeiters do and
what we as authenticators do to reach out. , all of the evidence
for the room currently are one trial there, although that’s a
very small percentage of the site at this time, but there are tens
of thousands of different images of real and counterfeit old and
rare bottles that people can, can look at to learn, you know,
what an authentic wine is. The other thing that we’re offering.
So the second prize or the spectrum I’m offering two things is,
two presentations, to our upcoming wind fraud and
counterfeiting presentation and authentication trading in New
York and in March, April, and a presentation in the morning and
it’s a three-hour long presentation about wine counterfeiting
and wine fraud, all the different aspects of it because of wine
fraud is a lot bigger than just counterfeit wine and counterfeit
wine in and of itself has many different topics. So, you know, if,
if people are interested, those are available.

Natalie: 08:11 Absolutely. and those are available to those of you who share
that. I would think those are of interest to anyone who collects
wine as well as to those in the trade, meaning wine agencies,
wineries, and so on. Maureen,

Natalie: 09:45 So Maureen, when it comes to counterfeit wines, you just
alluded to this, but what are the different facets you’re looking
for to determine what is a fake? Like I, there must be so many
from the label to the court to this capsule, but can you kind of
run through the big things that you’re looking for when it comes
to a fake? Yeah. So,

Maureen: 10:27 the bottle that I have in my hand, which is one of the great things
is not a perfect example, but I still think I’m a little bit of a
visual. Might be good here. So when we’re talking about looking
at the bottle or the city, obviously we can’t open the bottle. Nor
can we draw out any wine. And even though I know that there
are a lot of different companies that claim that they can pull out
liquid or they can, you know, look through the bottle and see if
you feel you have to have an example of every kind of wine
imaginable for this. We could start building that database today.
Great. But anyway, so everything that we have to look at is
forensic. So is the glass correct? And you know, every time
anybody who’s got a bottle in front of them, you can look at
them and can shape them and how the scenes are and you
know, for three types of glass is slightly different if you ever have
the good opportunity to meet with and you’ll see him at a
tasted, you’ll see him kind of fondling the top of bottles and
kind of go, what is he doing that for?

Maureen: 11:36 He is specifically doing that to make sure that those group
bottles have the correct thickness of the lip because he has
found counterfeit bottles just based on that tiny difference in
glass, for example, this is quite as thickness got its shape to it.
Whereas group is a little bit more straight out and around, so we
look at things like glass. We look at things like labels, you know,
is the label the correct size, does it look like the rest of the
bottle? Sometimes you’ll have a bottle that has a really beat up
and a high fill level and a pristine looking label and those things
kind of broke up. It’s got a really beat up that will house the
labels are perfect or it’s got a perfect label and I’m a beat up
capital and a very, very low fill or excuse me, a label, a perfect
capital and a very low fill either because if the if there was
seepage, if there was some sort of condition, those conditions
to be consistent throughout.

Maureen: 12:39 And then when we. We can actually look at different chemical
compounds with properties in paper and glue and age those
things and say, okay, well because this glows under UV light, it
must have been produced after this year when the chemical
that reacts to the UV light was first patented in used. , and then,
of course, we use a lot of magnification and the magnification
will show us what type of a print method there is, like true
colors in par with true nature of how the ink was applied to the
label and all of those things together. Tell us a picture or paint a
picture of them in that picture tells us a story of, of when and
where the bottle was created. And you know, unfortunately
DRC was not authentically making wine in southern California.
you know, in 1914 on a home laser jet printer and a computer
and printer. So, you know, we could, we could put all these little
pieces together and figure out.

Natalie: 13:54 It’s like CSI for wine. And I imagine that’s why you’re also called
the wind detective into, in addition to Sherlock Holmes. But I’ve
heard some really amazing things are people using sort of bank
note technology and infrared to determine like the quality of
the label and the paper now,

Maureen: 14:13 we do that, we definitely do that. But yeah, we have some
producers are using paper that has certain codes in it such that
the code of that paper will tell us exactly who milled that paper.
and there’s a lot of invisible ink being used. There’s a lot of
holograms being in, there are holograms infused actually into the
paper than a lot of these cases. There are also a lot of
holograms on capsules

Natalie: 14:43 really. How do they get a hologram into a capsule

Maureen: 14:46 on a capsule in the same way that they present the same way
that you would print any other design onto a capsule, anything
that can be printed. And that’s why we see such a move to
digital printing in the fine wine end. and the fine wine, industry,
all the printing is going to digital print so that people can include
this invisible ink and hologram printing as part of the. It’s no
more expensive for them. But unfortunately, all of these are
what I call cosmetic solutions because all they do is they protect
the packaging and they protect the packaging such that
unfortunately, a lot of these bottles can be refilled and then a,
would all of that anti-fraud would serve to I’m authenticated.
Counterfeit refill.

Natalie: 15:36 Wow. Okay. So, wow, the counterfeiters are getting more and
more sophisticated. So what goes beyond the cosmetic fraud
prevention? What steps do you take beyond that?

Maureen: 15:48 Well, right now there aren’t a lot of, I think workable solutions.
There’s a lot of ideas out there where people want to, , but you
know, they want to look at the liquid. They want to analyze, you
know, different things. There’s cesium 137 testing was first used
by Paul in 2003 when you found a bunch of counterfeits, that
were allegedly b and g model, 1900 Margo. And he had those
tested at the University of Bordeaux. It was the first time that
they used this kind of testing. Unfortunately you need a liquid
sample and all that it tells you is whether it’s something is pre or
post-nuclear, whether it’s between here and Cima and the three
mile island or noble and between then and we don’t want, you
know, you can’t when you’re talking about the fact that you
know, across the street is the difference between a $10,000
bottle and a $200 or even a $100 or a $50 bottle. We need
something a lot more precise than that. Some that knowledge,
you know? Yeah.

Natalie: 16:58 To dig into that because you’ve gone into an advanced concept
which is fascinating. So it’s radioactive dating and we know that
most wines post 19, 52 did not have the element that you
suggested or indicated. The CCM sleazy or whatever. There you
go. because after 1952 they were doing lots of nuclear tests
between the US, Russia and so on. So we can, we can, nuclear
physics physicists can measure the radioactivity in wine and
sort of date it to the exact vintage.

Maureen: 17:37 no, only get it within like a 50-year span and that doesn’t, I
mean, that’s great if you’re dating, you know, like Mayan art,
but if you’re, if you’re dating something, the from vintage to it
can be a huge difference, you know, between 1944 and 1945
in Bordeaux is pretty significant.

Natalie: 17:56 Exactly. So the only thing you would know is that if someone
was to claim that this is a 19, 42, whatever, and it had that
radioactivity, they would know that’s a fake. But that’s a very
gross measure. Like it’s not very good.

Maureen: 18:11 Right? Does anything else, does it tell you what it actually is?
Whereas until you. And the problem is that that testing is so
difficult and so expensive that it’s not something that somebody
can do at home. It’s not something that auction houses do, or
resellers do. I mean we can’t that most resellers in the world to
even inspect bottled much less . And that’s why the problems
that I have with, with plus medical solutions, including
something like approved tag, a tag is a little sticker that goes on
between the capsule and the glass and nobody actually
scans them unless they’ve got the bottle at Abel and Abel. It’s
too late. People need information such that they can make
intelligently based purchases. And that’s why my team and I to
employ blockchain technology to make the provenance, the
authenticity and the providence of bottle visible to buyers
online, no matter where they are in the world before they
purchase a botches. That’s where people need the information.

Natalie: 19:24 You Bet. And we’re going to get into blockchain. Absolutely. so
his wine tainted by radioisotopes. m, how about that? Is that
something you can speak on his wine.

Maureen: 20:29 We did a lot of testing after Fukuyama because obviously
especially over here and I’m, I’m in San Francisco and there’s a
lot of concern about our fish and some of our food products.
And wine is a food product. Wine is a consumable product,
which is why counterfeit, I think should be taken more seriously.
A lot of people don’t take it very seriously, but we have to
remember it’s consumable. So they did a lot of testing and,
even with the effects of the Fukushima, the radioactive levels
of, of the grapes themselves, news, and then finally of the
aligned product was way under anything that we need to worry
it is used to detect wine fraud. And what you’ve developed,

Maureen: 22:15 well, so first let me go back in and stay, you know, the issue.
And so for 20 years, I’ve been working in the fine wine category
and yeah, I worked in auctions for many years and I’ve been
managing private wine collections and it’s not just the crusty old
1960 bottle that we need to worry about what, because what
we’re seeing now, the current, the current wine fraud that
we’re seeing is recent vintages, recent releases. It’s also going
down to the mid-year sentence. So you know, if you think that
you don’t buy thousand dollar bottles in there for wine fraud
doesn’t affect you, you’re wrong there’s been a lot of Miraval
Rose that’s counterfeit. There’s more and more Brunello di
Montalcino in the $40 range that is coming out is counterfeit. So
this really does hit all aspects of the industry. and that is
because we have seen such low, punishment for those who get
caught doing this, that organized crime has gotten into the
game because if you get caught  human trafficking or
trafficking drugs, you’re going away forever.

Maureen: 23:22 You get caught counterfeiting, wines are selling counterfeit
wine. You maybe get a slap on the wrist if that means literally.
So, the problem that I continue to see is, you know, as
somebody that worked in an auction house, every time a bomb
was sold, if, if, if I sold you a bottle, Natalie, and a 10 years later
you decided that you wanted to sell that wine because of you
wanted to buy a new house or you were putting your knees
through college or any, there are a number of reasons why
people sell wine. There’s a lot of very good and altruistic
reasons. so if that were to happen, even though I sold it to you,
when you present it to somebody else for sale, it has to be
presented as though it’s a brand new entity and nobody’s ever
seen it before.

Maureen: 24:08 So the amount of time and resources that go into inspecting
that bottle and taking it from scratch again are high. , so that
was one problem. I wanted a way so that we could follow the
provenance of a bottle through the, just through the ownership
channel. And the distribution channel, going back to
the producer in a way that was meaningful and in a way that
could be communicated to a potential buyer. So I looked at this
for many, many years and unfortunately, so many solutions
have been based on technologies that immediately become
antiquated, that nothing seemed to fit. And then I learned
about the block. The blockchain is, I’m very briefly, the
blockchain is a distributed ledger, meaning it doesn’t live on my
computer and it doesn’t live only on your computer. It only lives
on both of our computers at the same time. Um, so it’s out

Maureen: 25:02 We don’t own it. It’s like the Internet. once you create a piece of
information on the blockchain, you cannot corrupt that piece of
information because every single piece of information that gets
added to it goes on, but you can’t remove a block. And it’s as
though everybody in the world has the same book open every
Time Somebody writes a ledger, a note in their ledger, that note
shows up magically and everybody else’s lecture. So like a Harry
Potter book. So this is basically what it does. So if we, if we can
get these bottles inputted from production and we do that by
putting an RFID to clean the cork, which also serves as anti-fraud
case, anybody pierces it with a needle, then we can track this
bottle through the distribution chain and when I go to purchase
authenticated as being perfect. so we have to have a solution
whereby, if that if it was peers, we’re actually adding a
secondary, anti-fraud on top. We’re using a diamond dust
solution that is scannable when you put diamond dust into a
food grade plastic, it will set it in such a way that no two results
are ever the same. So we’re actually layering on top of the RFID,
this diamond dust solution and if it’s been pierced, it won’t scan
the same. Wow.

Natalie: 28:47 That is really complex. Diamond dust and then the RFID. Wow.
Okay. So I’m going to go back to the comments for a moment
here. Maureen. Do you have any famous examples of really
stupid, fake bottles like where they’ve really mashed up the
name of the wine or some descriptor on the bottle?

Maureen: 30:32 well there, there are a number of them and actually there are
20 main points that we looked at in authentication and one
of them is information and there’s a lot of different aspects of
information, whether the the the labels match a labeling laws
that is, that we noted the time, or whether things are pulling
out and yeah, it’s been a lot. , in Rudy’s case, he did something
like the Percy Fox, There are a number of different things I’ve
even seen I’ve seen misspelled corks, because of people
counterfeit corks as well. So we’ve seen a lot of that when it
comes to information. Some of the things that we look at are, for
example, if the government, a formation of any particular
a company is typically on the front of a French wine label, so DRC
will say, society you of Dilla, Romany Conti, but there are
different types of company formations and sometimes
counterfeiters will take a label from a year and we’ll make
another year and they will get it wrong because they’re, for the
time period that they’re making the counterfeit is incorrect
there. They’re using a more modern label. So we look at things
like that all the time.

Natalie: 32:32 Absolutely. I’ve seen lots of fake ice wine labels from Canada,
that are made somewhere abroad, but there’ll be from Whistler,
BC, you know, ice, snow, you know, that’s where we go skiing.
So they must have ice wine. There are not the conditions to grow
ice wine, but you have a term called Unicorn wines. What are
they in the world of fake wines? Unicorn wines

Maureen: 32:54 So Unicorn. This is a term that we’ve been using for a long time
and some of the New York City sommeliers have taken it to
mean very rare wine, but I don’t know what they’re doing drug
wise, but Unicorns don’t exist. People, Unicorns, I’m sorry, from
the bearer, bad news here. Unicorns were mythical and
therefore the Unicorn wines that we talk about, our mythical
wines they are wines that exist only in the mind. Counterfeiter
that was dumb enough to make a bottle and in the victim who
was unfortunate enough to purchase the bottle. And these
include different things like combinations of a vineyard vintage
that don’t exist. I’m like La Ponsot, a Domaine before
1982, things like that. But it’s also things like a three liter of
1945 t DRC never made that DRC never bottled that. Nobody
took bottles back to DRC to create a three-liter or even a
magnum. There is, however, a guy in France who is pumping out
a couple of magnums a year if he needs to sell them.

Natalie: 34:07 Okay, excellent. Oh my goodness. Courtney Quinn asked, can
you share any wineries that are already using the blockchain

Maureen: 34:23 I don’t know of any that are right now because we are coming
out in Beta next month, but I’ve asked me this question in about
six months and there’ll be a whole book out I’ll bet. It’s in the
interest of people who are waiting for for

Natalie: 34:42 fantastic. Okay, so as regular buyers of wine, Maureen, what are
the tips we can use? We’re not in the rarefied world of
Southerby’s auctions and so on, but we’re out there. you said
wine fraud. Doesn’t isn’t just about really expensive wines.
What should we be looking? What looking for on a bottle, what
are the tips, the key tips that you can share with us to prevent
us from buying a fake.

Maureen: 35:30 So I think it goes back to more the source of the wine that
you’re looking at. unfortunately, so I’ve been working with the
FBI very closely since 2008 and they have recently, we, for many
years we had a dedicated agent who just did nothing but wine
fraud and despite the fact that we’ve got a lot of really good
convictions, you know, John Fox and Premier Crew is one that
you guys might’ve heard of Rudy Carniolan obviously, but
there’s a number of other convictions thought for smaller
criminals. unfortunately there they have, they have dropped the
dedicated wine person because they just don’t see that
producers care enough and that victims care enough to fight
this. And one of the big things was that the TTB and the ABC in
the state of California does not care if people have licenses to sell
wine online or not. They don’t care.

Maureen: 36:31 It’s a misdemeanor, they’re not going after anybody who
doesn’t have a license. So do not think that because you were
buying from a government agency, you are safe. Do not think
that because you are buying t. So the number one thing to do is
make sure that you’re buying only from trustworthy. That’d
vendors I’m trustworthy means people who have not been
embroiled in huge wine fraud scandals. you know, if people
have been in the news for wine fraud, there’s a reason. Don’t
give them your business. There’s plenty of good people to give
your business to. If the deal seems too good to be true. It is. ,
you know, one of, one of the other things that we need to
mention talking about wine fraud or counterfeit wine isn’t the
only problem. Damage. Wine is a huge problem and damaged
wine is a huge problem in the United States and it’s spreading
everywhere because we’ve had a couple of years of horrible
fires and horrible hurricanes that are tens of millions of dollars of
destroyed wine that is going to end up back in the marketplace.

Maureen: 37:38 So if it’s too good to be true, it is. Make sure that you’re dealing
only with reputable vendors and if you’re buying secondary
market wines, do you mean by that secondary market?
Secondary market means if you’re not the first owner. Okay. If
somebody else owned the bottle already. so a lot of the older,
it’s actually, it’s not old wine only, it’s rare wine because it’s very
hard to find a bottle of, of art or some of the first growth
demand globally is so big that these wines are allocated and
then people are allocations. Well that’s also where all the
counterfeits coming in. So it makes sure that you’re asking
questions about where the wine is from an if the vendor is
annoyed that you’re asking questions, find another one on On the public side, we have a list of vendors all
over the world that we suggest and we are training a whole
bunch of people around the world to be authenticators and
they’re constantly feeding us information. If you have questions
about whether a vendor is reputable or not, you could always
contact us at info@winefraud and we are happy to help.

Natalie: 38:44 Awesome.

Natalie: 39:33 All right, so what else should we think about Maureen? We buy
from a reputable dealer if it’s too good to be true. It is. Is, are
there things we should be looking for on the label other than
obvious misspellings? Is there anything else? Quick tips that we
can as consumers look for when we’re trying to spot a fake.

Maureen: 40:07 You know, I think the big thing is just consistency. Consistency is
something that I train authenticators to really focus on if you
see a beautiful woman walking down the street and she’s got
like a really tight, beautiful, you know, 25-year-old skin, but you
know, you can clearly tell that she’s maybe 65 in a body. There’s
been some work done or vice versa. So you know, if you have a
bottle of wine but it’s got a, you know, a horrible capsule and a
perfect fill and a perfect label that take a second look. Or if you
have a bottle that is allegedly really old, but it’s got a perfect
label and a perfect capsule in a really low fill. Those things,
you’re just not consistent. The different pieces of the bottle, it’s
like different pieces of our body go together. So if it looks like
it’s kind of been a Frankenstein, you know, put together, then it
might, it might just be and trust that you know, there’s always
another bottle. So be willing to walk away and trust your gut
and, and you’ll be fine. Wow.

Natalie: 41:14 Good advice. And for you this year, what is your biggest
challenge? What are you most looking forward to doing within
this world of wine fraud? I know you’re going to be launching
your Beta version, but, what else is out there? What do you
want to do next?

Maureen: 41: 28, take a vacation now. I’m really looking forward to getting this
launched. that’s something that we’ve been talking about for
years. I was working with a vendor that is, couldn’t get it done.
They couldn’t get us prototypes. And so a couple of months ago
I fell off the roof and I had a lot of time sitting on a couch so I
was able to get it done and, and get a new vendor and get it all
going. And so this year we’re going to be rolling out. for both
producers and in the secondary market, I’ve got all these
authenticators we’re doing our wine fraud presentation and
authentication training in New York for the first time ever. Lots
of people wanted us in New York. I’m going to the, what I say,
I’m going to the snakes’ den, I’m going to have to have extra
security because there are a lot of people in New York that are
very angry that I’m fighting this fight. I’ve actually, I’ve had to
take bodyguards to Le Palais for the last several years after
being assaulted. Really

Natalie: 42:29 because of many folks have a vested interest in not revealing
fraud. So let’s just talk about that for one moment. So the
people who have bought these fakes, they don’t want to be
revealed as stupid, you know, rich, whatever, not discerning.

Maureen: 42:44 There’s one auction house in New York that created Rudy
Kurniawan and won that funded Rudy Kurniawan on that, got
their, clients to then fund Rudy Kurniawan who sold tens and
tens of millions of counterfeit bottles. , they were, they were a
nonentity before Rudy Kurniawan and Eric Greenberg who also
sold a lot of counterfeit wine. Eric Greenberg was successfully
sued by Bill Koch, and Eric, it came out in that trial, the Eric
Greenberg was in business with Rudy Kurniawan to sell suspects
Bordeaux and this auction house was nothing before those
two and now they claim to be the largest auction house in the
world for one. So, they and their friends, I’m not popular, you
know, and I also am not okay with you know, some of the
tasting notes that are written and that, that just opened
misogyny and disgusting behavior. So, and I’ve been very vocal
about that for quite a long time and that is not, it’s not

Natalie: 43:50 No. And being a woman who’s whistleblowing that must be

Maureen: 43:55 Yeah, it’s not easy. Fortunately, I have a lot of good friends with
like Pete Hellman, who’ve been really important in this, in this
fight. We wouldn’t know nearly what we know about Rudy
without Pete, without Peter Hellman Rudy would probably not
be in.

Natalie: 44:10 Wow, that’s quite a tribute. Excellent. And I would think that
the, well, the auction houses, as you’ve suggested in a lot of the
retailers would have a vested interest in, and even some of the
wineries I would say don’t want to think that their wines are out
there and our fake it would damage the brand. So I’d be when
people come forward and they say, you know, buyers come
forward, say

Maureen: 44:32 this is a fake. I think I’ve read somewhere where you said
they’re asked to sign nondisclosure agreements not to read
almost all of the counterfeit wine that we find in private
collections. The vendors will only give a refund to the
buyers if they sign a nondisclosure agreement. And the bottles.
Ok, you have a bottle of Henri Gia reached board 1978 that you
purchased 10 years ago. of course, wants that bottle back
because they’re going to pay you your $3,000 and then they’re
going to turn around and sell it for $30,000. Now it’s become a
cottage industry is all too happy to take that counterfeits. Only
after you signed an NDA though, I will not be a party to any of
those days because the whole thing just makes me ill. So,
unfortunately, these wines are not getting taken out of

Maureen: 45:28 at the end of sour grapes, you saw a couple of hundred bottles
get smashed. Those bottles were part of Rudy Kurniawan wants
private 5,000 bottle cellar. They were mostly blending wines in
that collection. None of those wines or wines that had ever
been sold in the market, all of the wines that were sold and
slash or sold in return still out there. They’re still there. And
most of the time when we find counterfeits, the vendors
require that our clients send them back. So it’s, that is really
frustrating. And not only did the auction houses and, and this is
not an auction problem, anybody that thinks that this is an
oxygen problem is living in a bygone era. This is a huge problem
for retailers and brokers have. Auction houses for the most part,
are actually doing something to combat this. They actually
inspect the bottles.

Maureen: 46:17 Most retailers and brokers, most brokers don’t even ever see
the bottles themselves and most retailers would prefer to hide
behind a willful ignorance. The entire industry. It’s full of
willfully ignorant. You would think that these seminars that
we’re doing would be exploding. You would think that every
retailer out there would want at least to talk to me about wine
fraud, but a lot of them don’t. They don’t want to know about it.
They don’t want to hear about it. They, you know if, if they are,
if they are blissfully ignorant, they can just, Oh, I didn’t know.
My attitude is if you’re selling rare wine. It is your job to know
that if you’re selling a consumable product, it is your job to make
sure that you are a consumer advocate no matter what. So in
my opinion, there’s nobody that sells wines and spirits who is
above making sure that what they’re selling is authentic and
and not refilled and not thinking, wow. Yeah, hear no evil, see
no evil. That doesn’t out. And you were saying in a piece I read
just Rudy’s alone, his wines that are

Natalie: 47:30 still out there, his fake wines on the market could be worth
$550. Million dollars at least just one man. One, one
counterfeiter. I mean, imagine them. How much counterfeit
wine is out there as unbelievable. Wow. Maureen, this has just
zipped by. We’re at 10 to the hour. This has been a fabulous
conversation. Have we, is there something that we haven’t
mentioned that you’d like to mention now?

Maureen: 47:57 I don’t think so. I just, you know, I want for people to know that
we really are consumer advocates and you know, we want
people to send us questions and let us know if you’ve had
issues, if there’s a form that you have opened with, , I still do
work with the FBI on a regular basis. We just don’t have a
dedicated wine fraud person anymore. but you know, if you’re
interested in this topic, while I’m is a great resource.
And if you’re interested in learning more about what we are looking
for more authenticators and we’re going to be doing training’s
in New York and in Hong Kong. we’re doing one in Hong Kong
the last day of February, first day march, and then, we’re in New
York a couple of weeks after that. All the information is online , and as I said, where we are definitely looking for
more educators because Shay Vault is going into the need to be
implemented in the secondary market to vendors and a private
collectors who want to do that. And we need people to do that.

Natalie: 48:59 Okay. Well folks, you know where to contact Maureen at I’m sure lots of folks will be interested in that.
Maureen, thank you so much for spending your time with us
this Sunday evening. Fascinating chat. I could chat, chatted with
you another two hours or more. Thank you.

Maureen: 49:18 Appreciate it. If people follow me on twitter I will post some
pictures of some other things.

Natalie: 49:30 Okay, great. So you’ll post some of the, s fraudulent wine
bottles and I’ll also post some of those bottles in the blog post
for this and eventually when we convert this into a podcast will
definitely have that in the show notes as well, Maureen. . Thank
you so much. I’ll say good. Okay. Thank you Maureen. Bye Bye
for now.



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