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

This is one of the most interesting times for Burgundy in the global auction market and a critical point with respect to certain vintages.  Those with significant Burgundy collections, particularly of older vintages, should consider creating both a consumption and sales plan.  The 2013 grape loss in both Bordeaux and Burgundy is likely to push prices even higher through the fall of 2014, as the availability of newer wines is limited.  Thereafter, prices are likely to level off for some time so consider evaluating your collection and devising a strategy before the window closes.

Red Burgundy has had a series of good to great vintages since 2008 and many of these wines are still too young to drink.  There is no need for a consumption plan for these wines and investment potential will probably be better realised by waiting to sell.  Wines from 2001 to 2007 may be drunk now and are starting to attract interest at auction.  However, this span includes two critical vintages – 2003 and 2004 – which should be drunk within a relatively short time or sold as soon as possible.  In general the 2003s are already losing favour with critics and knowledgeable collectors, in the US in particular, because of the very ripe 2003 vintage. The odium issues that wreaked havoc on the 2004 vintage are making it very difficult for these wines to age gracefully.

White Burgundy has been showing a slow but steady upwards quality trend since the early 80s and now rarely has a poor vintage.  However, this trend is slightly compromised by the difficulties many producers have had with premature oxidation since the 1996 vintage.  White Burgundies, other than those of the very best vineyards and producers, thus have a shorter optimal drinking window than in previous years and anything earlier than 2005 should be either drunk or sold relatively swiftly. As with Red Burgundies, any White Burgundy wine from 2003 and 2004 should be liquidated as soon as possible.

The principal reason that fine wine continues to enjoy such strong investment value and high return is rarity.  For the past four years, an increasing amount of the distribution energy and top quality wines have gone to Asia. As a result, the USA and European markets are starved, while we are beginning to see a surplus supply in Asia. With dismal vintages in 2013, investors and collectors will find themselves with cash reserves that would have gone to futures, in a market depleted of high quality product.  As a result, we expect to see extremely strong prices realized in secondary markets.

Our research shows that despite the recent craze in Burgundy buying, there are initial signs of some collectors turning back to Bordeaux, and they will soon be allocating more resources there.  Many collectors have grown wary of the meager Burgundy supply, the education required to be a smart Burgundy buyer as well as the skyrocketing prices attached, and in response are turning back to Bordeaux.  Historically, the fine & rare wine market has waxed and waned between favouring Burgundy and Bordeaux.  Most recently, we had Bordeaux peaks in 1998, 2002 and 2008.  Accordingly, Burgundy prices spiked in 2001, 2003, and are about to experience peak prices from spring through fall of 2014 before we expect them to flatten out for a few years.

– Siobhan Turner DWS, Senior Consultant for Chai Consulting, Europe


With Rosh Hashanah beginning at sundown tonight, we thought we’d highlight our favorite kosher wines that can be enjoyed during the holidays.   All wines can be found on and all are also Kosher for Passover.


NV Drappier Carte D’Or $44
Based off of 85-90% Pinot Noir, this generous champagne oozes stone fruit and berries.

NV Laurent Perrier Rosé $80
One of the most popular rosés in the world!  Made from 100% Pinot Noir in the saignée method, this classic sparkler shows depth, intensity, and is chock full of fresh, dark berry flavors.


2004 Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Graves, Bordeaux $95/750ml, $74/375ml
Smith Haut Lafitte comes in both red and white, and we choose the white.  Based primarily on approximately 90% sauvignon blanc, and aged in neutral oak for a year, it is plump, refined, and elegant.

2011 Domaine Du Castel “C” Blanc Chardonnay, Jerusalem $43
Aged on its lees for 12 months in barrel, the round plush palate of this wine is the perfect companion to matzo ball soup.


2002 Château Léoville Poyferré Saint Julien $60
Why settle for ho-hum wine when you can have second-growth Bordeaux instead? With Michel Rolland as consulting winemaker, the structure and power can stand up to any beef brisket.

2005 Borgo Reale Sigli Brunello Di Montalcino $50
Full of truffle, earth, and floral notes, this rich, elegant wine will satisfy paired with any rich meat course thrown its way.


NV Tio Pepe Dry Sherry
The crisp, saline flavors of this classic sherry from Jerez, Spain will complement gefilte fish nicely.

L’shanah tovah!

William Brajnikoff FWS, Fine Wine Consultant & Account Advisor for Chai Consulting