The news today that counterfeiters in Communist China are making fake bottles of Penfolds wines to rip off the gullible locals with more money than sense is unsurprising. It has been going on for ages.
The cringeworthy new faux-premium labels based on the Penfolds font are named ‘Penfunils’ and ‘Benfords’.
If I did not own shares in the owner of Penfolds, Treasury Wine Estate, I would find this rather funny.
But as I do have a dog in this fight, albeit only 1000 out of the 740 million shares on offer in TWE, I do take this mildly seriously.
But it does cause me to segue into whether I actually have much enthusiasm for Penfolds or other TWE owned wines.
Back when I spent the better part of 1999 working in Canberra (my longest period outside of Melbourne, which did convince me that Melbourne is home no matter what opportunities might come up elsewhere), I started to get more sophisticated in my wine drinking. I went from just drinking whatever red was available to reading books about wine appreciation and to spending time studying the wines available in bottle shops. I very quickly went from drinking the Rosemount Diamond Label Cabernet Shiraz (now part of the TWE portfolio) to drinking Penfolds Bin 28.
And Bin 128, 389, 407….
They were much cheaper then. You could find a Bin 28 or 128 for under $25 in a bottle shop, and similarly a Bin 407. Bin 389 could be found for about $35, and a St Henri, once the in house rival for Grange, did not cost much more than $40.
Now, those wines cost double, if not triple that price, depending on which particular Bin you are looking at. The growth of the market in Communist China has caused the price of Penfolds wines to spike considerably in recent years.
Are they worth it at that price? You are buying predictable premium quality for the price, but predictability is one of the most boring and unromantic things about wine. The variation from vineyard to vineyard, vintage to vintage, even from bottle to bottle, is one of those things which makes wine drinking fun and exciting and whimsical.
I have at least one empty Grange bottle sitting around at home somewhere (FYI, Grange is great, but is it really worth paying more than $80 for and treating like an investment), a souvenir of a third date with a happy ending from a long time ago. It is sometimes interesting to see whether I could fill it up with garage wine (I have heaps of that in plastic drums in the shed), cork it manually, and cover it with a red jacket tightened by a heat gun, and then proffer it to the gullible.
But I am too honest for that. Vir Probus Sum, as the Romans would say. But if anyone were to make me an offer for that empty Grange bottle, I would be interested to know what the price is.