Courtesy of Guardia di Finanza, Firenze
by Winebounty Team| Oct 17, 2020

While Wine Bounty is crazy about great deals, there is a balance.  As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.  Point in fact, the recent bust surrounding fake Sassicaia.

Earlier this month, Italian police seized more than 4,200 counterfeit bottles of the cult Super Tuscan wine, Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia.  The 2010 and 2015 vintages were the most prevalent among the fakes – the latter of which placed #1 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2018.  Bottles of Sassicaia can easily fetch upwards of $300/bottle, making the criminal operation fairly lucrative.  It was estimated that the criminals were selling 700+ cases of the fake wine per month.

Dubbed “Bad Tuscan”, the seizure led to the arrests of two suspects with 11 others currently under investigation.  The counterfeit juice was said to originate in Sicily, while the bottles were imported from Turkey, and the labels, caps, tissue paper, and wooden boxes from Bulgaria.

According to investigators, several customers from China, Korea, and Russia had already ordered about 1,000 cases at a 70% discount off retail.  For wines as popular as Sassicaia — and particularly two of its best vintages — that should have been a red flag by itself.

In addition to the 4,200 counterfeit bottles seized, authorities also seized 80,000+ counterfeit items which included labels, bottles, caps, and wooden cases. The counterfeit items would have facilitated the sale of another 6,600 bottles of Sassicaia 2015, bringing the counterfeit operation into the millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, this bust is not an isolated event.  Those who deal in high-end wine know that counterfeits exist and must be constantly on guard.  The margins are far too great for criminal operations to ignore.  If you’re interested in learning about some other noteworthy counterfeit busts, check out the documentary Sour Grapes (2016) or turn a page in The Billionaire’s Vinegar (2009).  Either will leave you jaw-dropped and running to your cellar to frantically check the labels, caps, and bottles on your most treasured wines.  Happy Hunting (I hope!).

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