Wine fraud continues to be a growing problem. There are more consumers competing for the world's high-end bottlings, both via retail and the secondary market. Since many of these wines are made in limited amounts (that won't ever increase in the case of single-vineyard wines), the increased demand is feeding the growth of this insidious problem.
Numerous companies are now offering anti-fraud services for wineries to use, and recently the Rhône's Paul Jaboulet Aîné joined the list of wineries combating the problem.
"The '61 La Chapelle has gotten such high prices at auction, that [Jean-Jacques] Frey became concerned about possible fraud," explained Nicolas Jaboulet, marketing manager, about the storied négociant firm's new owner and one of its most historic vintages. The wine currently garners an average of $7,148 per bottle, according to Wine Spectator's auction index.
Jaboulet still has some stocks of older vintages of La Chapelle and produces less than 1,500 cases annually of its flagship Hermitage bottling. Since November, all red La Chapelle bottles (a small amount of La Chapelle white was produced in 2006), both older and current releases, will have the Prooftag label.
Prooftag uses a small square of plastic gel that features a unique pattern of bubbles called a "Bubble Tag." The tag is attached to a seal that runs between a wine's capsule and its neck and features an identification code that customers can enter on the company's website (wap.prooftag.com). There they can check their bubble pattern against a picture of the original and retrieve additional information on the bottle.
"It guarantees the wine is coming from our cellar, and this is a benefit down the road if the wine is resold," said Jaboulet.
In addition, the Prooftag code also provides traceability information, detailing when the wine was released from the winery's cellar.
Jaboulet noted that it was too early to know if they would extend the anti-fraud program to any of the winery's other high-end bottlings.
For more on the recent changes at the winery, see my column on Jaboulet's change in ownership.
Bill Norrish — Groton, MA — January 18, 2009 4:59pm ET
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