By: Siobhan Turner

I was asked about what I was looking forward to most about the presentations and training in London and Hong Kong that are coming up in the next few months.  This seemed like an easy question at first, and then, as I explored it, more and more waves uncovered, so I thought I would write briefly about it, to get my own thoughts straight, and to explore why the trainer might be as excited as a trainee.

The first part is simply that it is very exciting to be given a chance to spread this particular gospel, and to be in a room with people who actually CARE about wine authenticity.  I cannot tell you how much this matters.  I also cannot tell you how frustrated and then angry I get when I come across people who simply don’t care that they are selling fakes.  I examined some wine for a client who does care, passionately.  Unfortunately, hanging around on the periphery was the vendor who was trying to sell it to her.  His reaction was telling – when we told him the wine was fake, his response started at “it can’t be” and moved on to “so what, the buyer will never know”.  In other words, this was someone who was more than willing to knowingly sell a fake product to a client – and, let us not forget, a fake product that the client would consume.  This was someone who would knowingly risk someone’s life for the sake of a sale.  Really?  So the thing I am most looking forward to is, absolutely, being with people who do care, who do think it is important, and who do want to learn.

The second part is being in a room with Maureen, and learning myself.  Yes, I will be one of the trainers.  That is seriously cool.  But make no mistake, I shall also be learning myself, reinforcing and remembering what I already knew, and refining the details.  Practice is always important, and this is a really good chance to practice, and to learn more.  For me, it is a bit like a master class, and who would not look forward to that.

And finally, on a purely superficial note, I have never been to Hong Kong.  Am I excited about going there?  Hell yes!  And if anyone has a favourite haunt or a particular place they think I should visit, I would love to hear that too.

By: Aaron Patrick

While studying for the Somm exam, Chai Consulting’s Cellar Manager is often asked what his favorite wine is. His response? That’s like asking a mother with a 100 kids which is her favorite! I mean she has it narrowed down to her top ten on any given day, but she can’t pick her favorite. There are wines/regions I can drink all the time. Overall, when I do drink wine I’m looking for great values.

Champagne is my Achilles heel; I could drink it daily. I believe you can find more value than ever when buying champagne right now. When it comes to Champagne, I don’t discriminate. I will buy wine from négociant producers- who are buying grapes and juice from the over 15,000 grower producers- to some of the same grower producers who used to sell their grapes and now make their own wine.

I also love the crisp, refreshing and sometimes nutty wines of Chablis. Chablis offers amazing value at any level, whether you are buying village level bottlings to Premier or even up to Grand Cru. Two vintages I am enamored with because of their amazing acidity are 2012 and the recent 2014 vintages.

One underrated wine that can be amazing and extremely complex is Chianti! The Sangiovese grape can be undervalued and even passed off as peasant wine, but at it’s peak, and from great producers, it over delivers. I love it’s ability to pair well with food as well!

By: Siobhan Turner

As the former Executive Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine, what was the relevance of wine authentication to the organization?

Wow!  This is a difficult question to answer, and it must be done from a number of different perspectives.

The first, and easiest, way to tackle this question is to ask if it is part of the MW syllabus.  The answer is yes, although not explicitly.  One of the things I particularly like about the MW exam is that its syllabus has a flexibility to it that requires MW candidates to be aware of virtually everything that is going on in the world of wine, which obviously includes counterfeits.  I think it is safe to say that counterfeit wines are unlikely to be on the Practical exam (not least because it would be both impractical, illegal and and unethical to buy them, not to mention the legal implications of knowingly putting students at risk by making them ingest them).

However, wine authenticity is something of huge relevance to the theory portion of the exam, both directly, such as this question from 2014: “To what extent is fake wine a problem in today’s wine market?” and as a critical element of other questions addressing branding, distribution strategy, secondary markets, labels and a wide variety of other topics.  In addition, the third part of the exam, the Dissertation (now Research Paper) is a prime area of focus should someone wish to delve into the topic, as Rhys Pender MW did for his dissertation.

Beyond the study element, is wine authentication relevant to the Institute of Masters of Wine?

There are individual MWs for whom I have an enormous amount of respect in the Institute who take the matter very seriously indeed.  Serena Sutcliffe MW, former head of Sotheby’s wine department, is head and shoulders at the top of this list, but I would be remiss not to mention David Molyneux-Berry MW, Clive Coates MW, and David Peppercorn MW as included in this group.  Sheri Morano MW actively works in wine authentication for Chai Consulting.  Rhys Pender MW wrote his dissertation on the topic, with specific relevance to top Californian producers, and for producers like Fiona Morrison MW (Le Pin, L’If) it is a matter of utmost importance.

There are others, however, for whom counterfeit wine is viewed as much less of an issue than, in my opinion, it should be, and as a result, it is not something on which the Institute as a whole has been seen to take a firm position.  I think this is a missed opportunity, and one that would be welcomed by the vast majority of its members and by its supporters.  It will be interesting to see if this develops as awareness of the breadth and depth of the issue increases.

By: Siobhan Turner

 

My friends often have quite a warped view of my job.  When I say I am going to authenticate a bottle of wine, they somehow picture a lovely restaurant, or a charming villa in Tuscany (if I am travelling) and me gleefully pronouncing that the bottle of ’61 Petrus is a fake to a grateful client.  The reality is far from this.  You are far more likely to find me in a grubby cellar in deepest rural Iberia, or a warehouse in the glamour that is (not) Uxbridge.

Every once in a while, however, the image, at least in part, fits reality.  I recently looked at a cellar in a beautiful part of Europe for a truly lovely client, one of these people you just feel deserves the best because he is such a genuinely nice person.  His cellar was lovely too – in pristine condition, primarily Bordeaux first growths, and almost all of it bought en primeur.

So why did he call us in?  Well, a few years ago Mr X had bought part of a cellar from a sommelier and wine merchant in his home country.  This was not his usual source, but there were a number of bottles in it of rare wines from significant years for our client and his family and friends, and he wanted to be able to share these special bottles with them.

The interesting thing about this story, for me, is the emotional side.  My client is a successful businessman, and a true lover of wine.  This is my favourite type of client.  I deeply respect the auction house or vendor who calls us in, and I wish more would.  The collectors who simply look at the wine should practise their corkscrew skills more often, but also deserves and receives my respect.  This man, however, drinks wine, enjoys it, and his purchases had not been for the purpose of trading or showing off, but for sharing with those he treasures in his life.  He had first requested our services after sharing a bottle with a friend that was just not as it should be, and he described the anticipation of the evening, the joy of surprising his good friend with this special bottle, and then the complete disappointment, coupled with some embarrassment, when they both realised they had doubts about it.

A colleague and I journeyed to him, and set up our vetting operation in an anteroom just outside the cellar, which was separate from his house.  It was a hot and sticky time in the summer, but it had been so chilly in the UK I was welcoming the heat and humidity.  That said, we did need to be careful with the bottles not to keep them in those conditions for too long.  I hoped it would be relatively easy to tell – and, as always, I was hoping the bottles, or at least most of them were real.

Sadly, it became apparent very quickly that there was a major problem.  My colleague and I worked our way through the bottles, taking detailed notes and photographs.  What was wrong with them?  In short, everything. From time to time, our client came down to see how we were getting on.  As we talked to him, and explained where we were in the process, and one, six, fourteen, twenty-two bottles turned out to be fake, his emotions became more visible.  He was angry, with embarrassment.  That was expected – here was a successful businessman who had lost money, and had been duped.

There were deeper emotions, however, that were more painful, and more difficult.  Betrayal was a large part of this.  My client had trusted someone, and that trust had been violated.  There was the disappointment that certain bottles he thought he owned were no longer in his cellar.  And above all, there was grief, for the celebrations he could no longer have, the memories he would no longer create.  We all have our reasons for wanting to create memories, and my client’s shall remain private, but they were important to him, and to have that potential lost was something deeply troubling to him.

So this is why authentic wine is important to me.  The damage it does to the economics of the industry is staggering, but the emotional capital that those who love wine, and love the hospitality and sharing that goes along with it, is even more important.  It reminds me of why I loved the wine industry when I started working in it – the sense that people get pleasure from a bottle and want to share that pleasure with others.  So what really makes me angry, and why I join with Maureen in her fight against the counterfeiters, and share her anger at those who enable them, is that they are stealing these moments from people whom I like and respect.  People who wanted them, needed them, relied on them, and now can no longer have them

Presentations & TCM Authentication® Training

London: 30th November & 2nd December, 2016

Hong Kong: 6th – 9th February, 2017

 

Authentication Clinic: Bring us your bottles for Authentication

10th February, 2017 Grand Hyatt, Hong Kong

For the first time ever, the Chai Consulting, LLC team is going on the road to give Wine Fraud & TCM Authentication® Presentations and Training.

We are also hosting a first ever Authentication Clinic in Hong Kong where collectors can bring their bottles to us for authentication.

Please click on the area of interest below for more information, or to sign up for to attend any of these events. Links will take you our WineFraud.com pages with full descriptions of events where you can sign up.

Space is limited!

We reserve the right to refuse attendance and participation.


30th November & 2nd December, 2016

Wine Fraud & TCM Authentication® Presentation, London 67PallMall

TCM Authentication® Training Level I, London 67PallMall

 

7th February – 9th February, 2017

Wine Fraud & TCM Authentication® Presentation, Hong Kong, Grand Hyatt

TCM Authentication® Training Level I, Hong Kong, Grand Hyatt

TCM Authentication® Training Level II, Hong Kong, Grand Hyatt

 

10th February, 2017

Authentication Clinic, Hong Kong, Grand Hyatt

From the Wine Show website, Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys star in this series about the stories behind some of the world’s most fascinating wines. In their villa HQ in the Italian hills they turn the tables on wine expert Joe Fattorini and send him off to find a wine that breaks all the rules. He heads to the beautiful city of Orvieto and meets a winemaker who’s making a cool climate pinot noir in Lazio. Chef Stephen Harris shares his love of red burgundy and creates a simple dish to complement it. Matt and Matt are challenged to tell the difference between a £120 bottle of French wine and one from Spain that costs just £10 as The Wine Show looks into wine fraud and the story of Rudi Kurniawan, the most famous wine criminal in history. And Joe meets the matriarchs at the Township Winery in Cape Town doing everything they can to create a legacy for their children.