At Arden Fine Wines, we get offered all sorts of stuff from all sorts of people.
There has been a noticeable upturn this year in the amount of private clients approaching us with bottles of fine wine that they wish to sell.
A dash to cash, perhaps, with people bottled-up at home and looking at what can be sold to raise money during these testing times.
A recent example was Château Lafite 1994 – quite a nice Lafite, though lacking the intensity of superior vintages.
This bottle was offered to us from a private seller on eBay, who had not realised that alcohol sales are strictly controlled on eBay.
(For the record, Arden is an Approved Seller of wines on eBay.)
When approached with an offer off this kind, I always ask: Where and when was the bottle acquired? Where and how has it been stored? Can you please send some images?
The reply was: “The bottle has been laying (sic) down in our drinks cupboard since it was obtained as a 50th birthday gift in 2013.”
Hmmm… Then the photos arrived.
The bottle was shown in a wooden gift box and looked to be in very good condition.
But then I looked at the images of the capsule.
The top of the capsule had dents in it that suggested tampering of some sort.
Though it might be an effect of a mobile phone camera’s foreshortening, the capsule looked as though it was loose and protruding from the bottle. Had the bottle been tampered with? Had the capsule been removed at some point to enable the bottle to be opened, drunk, and then refilled?
It wouldn’t be possible to see the cork unless the capsule was cut, which the seller would be unlikely to agree to.
Still, why refill and fake a (not particularly lucrative) 1994 Lafite? (Even if fraudsters are morons.)
It’s possible that the bottle was poorly stored (in the “drinks cupboard” in the kitchen…?) and heat has forced the cork against the capsule. It’s not uncommon for bottles of fine wine that have been gifted – rather than purchased – to be treated with carelessness.
Without having seen it in person, it’s hard to say.
I politely declined the offer and wished the seller luck.