food & drink

What's on a label?

The media love it when they can break news about any sort of fraud, whether in the world of art, finance, or simply wine. The untiring interest may be due to the fact that there are often well-known personalities involved, and wine is, anyway, sort of sexy.

The major scandals to date have invariably been based on the counterfeiting of the world's greatest vintages, like dressing up an inferior wine to appear like one of the world's greatest. Rudy Kurniwan is serving a 10-year jail sentence in the US for doing just that, caught out when he counterfeited magnums of a famous Burgundy for a year when no magnums were used.

So why should anyone bother to make a cheap wine look like an older wine from one of the lowest value regions of Spain? Redolent of the decades-long battle between cava producers Freixenet and Codorniu, two Valdepeñas giants have accused each other of selling young wine as vintage. Felix Solis and García Carrión process millions of litres in Europe's largest wine-producing region, but something was seriously wrong with their accounting, as they declared sales of more crianzas and reservas than had been declared for all the wine in their inventory. No prizes for guessing that if you bought a Viña Albali Reserva, for example, there was a good chance it was an unaged wine from the latest vintage. The problem of course is that when we buy wine, we tend to believe what we read on the label, even though the information shown is possibly the least informative of any alimentary product we buy.