“All those solutions are cosmetic, and anything cosmetic can be counterfeited,” she says. “If criminals get $500,000 in funding and a digital printer, they can do it at the same level as producers.”

In 2013, Moulin turned to Downey for training in the dark arts of wine fraud. Using evidence gathered in her investigation of Kurniawan, she showed Moulin how the master fraudster fabricated renowned wines and warned that it’s not always possible definitively say whether a bottle is legit. “There are a lot of grey areas in this job, but she taught me to trust my instincts,” Moulin says.

His skills were tested before Downey had even finished her lessons. A 40-year-old Henri Jayer Richebourg, a Grand Cru Burgundy that sells for about $15,000 a bottle, came across his workbench. At first glance it looked perfect, but he and Downey were suspicious. Moulin, who keeps the bottle on hand as a reminder of the importance of constant vigilance, pulls it from a drawer and rubs the label. “Jayer used ridged paper and this is quite smooth,” he says.

Moulin points to a small secondary label that indicates the pinot noir was bottled by an outfit in Belgium; the late Jayer bottled only at his estate. Add it up, he says, and it’s clear it’s a counterfeit made by Kurniawan: “Everything about this bottle screamed problem.”

A chatty 48-year-old native of the southern coast of England, Moulin grew up drinking diluted wine poured by his French grandfather at the dinner table. After college, he got a job on the sales floor of Majestic Wines, a major U.K. retailer. In 1997 he jumped to Berry Bros. and fell in love with rare old vintages the day he tasted a 1986 Le Pin, known for its flavors of licorice and black cherries. “I can still taste it now,” Moulin says.  

In 2000, he switched from sales to hunting for valuable bottles that Berry Bros. might purchase and resell. His quest took him from the dank basements of country estates to high-ceilinged flats in London’s toniest neighborhoods. Sometimes his expeditions ended in farce—one family had run heating pipes through their basement during a renovation, cooking several cases of sleeping claret. Other times he felt like he’d unearthed a Picasso at a yard sale, like the day he pulled six perfectly preserved bottles of 1947 Cheval Blanc, dubbed the wine of the century and valued at more than $6,000 apiece, from a widow’s cellar.

In time, Moulin became so steeped in labels, bottle quality, corks, and the effects of time that colleagues started coming to him for help authenticating rare wines. Seven years ago, Berry Bros. asked Moulin to take on the role full-time and get some formal training. While Moulin only comes across a fake every couple of months, he doesn’t dare let down his guard.

With thousands of Kurniawan’s bogus bottles still unaccounted for, Moulin and his team photograph and inspect virtually everything that comes in the door, and he won’t hesitate to reject a case that shows even a hint of fakery. “If we get to a point where we feel we have to open the bottle and try the liquid inside, then I consider the wine a lost cause,” he says. “We have to err on the side of caution.”

This article provided by Bloomberg News.

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