Wine investment fraud expected to rise

Wine investment fraud expected to rise

Wine trade leaders fear that the critically acclaimed Bordeaux 2009 vintage will foster fraudulent 'front' companies that will attempt to swindle investors by selling wine that doesn't exist.

Wine merchants are expecting scams in many markets from the US and UK to China as Bordeaux's prestigious chateaux prepare to put their 2009 stocks up for sale.

So-called Bordeaux en primeur wines are released for sale before they are bottled or ready for delivery and have become increasingly popular among investors in recent years.

"It's going to be very messy," Simon Staples, sales and marketing director at London-based merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, told just-drinks today (28 April). "Already, there are companies in mainland China reported to be selling futures of Chateau Lafite, which obviously hasn't been released yet."

Similar concerns arose following the acclaimed 2005 Bordeaux vintage, when prices rocketed as investors scrambled for cases.

Such is the demand for bottles of 2009, merchants will likely be forced to prioritise orders based on customer loyalty and previous spending. "It's astonishing," said Staples. "We've been inundated with calls."

Commenting on scores released this week by US wine critic Robert Parker, Staples said: "I've never seen numbers like this." Berry Bros is expecting extremely strong demand from the US, Europe and Asia.

The UK-based Wine & Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) yesterday warned investors to check the details of their chosen merchant carefully.

"Fine wine can be a very good investment but consumers should make some basic checks before they part with their money," said WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles.

The WSTA has published a checklist for those considering investing in Bordeaux en primeur.