Drinking Fake Sassicaia

Dec 11, 2008

I drank some fake Sassicaia last weekend at a friend’s house near Pisa. The wine wasn’t mine, but I told my friend that his bottle didn’t make sense. The big giveaway was the branded cork that didn’t have a vintage printed on it. And the bottle was a modern dark-green bottle with a long neck. The bottles of current vintages of Sass are not like that, and all of the recent vintages, as well as earlier ones, have the vintage printed on the cork.

“The bottles came from a large collection I bought from a few months back,” said my friend, who is a wine collector in Tuscany. “The man said that the bottles were from the 1980s and they lost their labels.”

I felt sorry for my friend. I was almost embarrassed to tell him that his bottle of the famous Cabernet Sauvignon-based red from the Bolgheri area was bogus. He said that he had bought hundreds of bottles from the collection that included high-end Burgundies, Bordeaux, Barolos and super Tuscans, among others.

It was a cash deal. So I doubt he has any recourse on the fakes. And the other bottles were kosher. Or were they? We had a Giacomo Conterno Monfortino without the vintage neck label that seemed the real deal. I thought it was from 1978. But again the cork did not say what the vintage was. I wonder now if it was legitimate?

I think my friend was a little embarrassed. “Even if the wine is fake, I think it is pretty good,” he only half-joked.

I thought, as well, that it was a pretty good Cabernet Sauvignon due to its fresh herb and currant character, firm tannins and a fresh, fruity finish. But it didn’t have the complexity or class of Sassicaia. I told my friend that I would confirm the fraud a few days later with the owner of Tenuta San Guido, the property that makes Sass.

Last night, Nicolò Incisa della Rocchetta came for dinner at my house with seven other top Tuscan wine producers for a blind tasting of 1997s versus 1998s that included Solaia, Sassicaia, Messorio, Galatrona, Masseto, Ornellaia, Redigaffi, Scrio and others. I will tell you about it tomorrow. But Nicolò didn’t say much when I told him about the fraud and showed him the bogus cork.

“This is a problem,” he said, shaking his head. He just kept starring at the cork.

You can say that again. And obviously it is not his fault. But you have to wonder how many other people out there have fake bottles of Sassicaia, or other wines for that matter, in their cellar waiting to be served?


Crime Fraud Italy Tuscany

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