Fake or fortune? Pétrus 1952

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Which one of these three Pétrus 1952 bottles is an imposter…?

I should point out that I haven’t seen these bottles in person, so any opinions on colours, shapes etc are far from definitive. And the image is not high res.

I tip my “chapeau” to François Audouze, who tasted and photographed these wines.

In no way am I suggesting any misdeed by M Audouze, who – unlike some arrogant and ill-informed people – is a collector of the highest integrity and knowledge. I saw the image and thought that it would be interesting to ask people’s opinions. It’s unique to have three different bottlings of the same wine – even if one is probably a forgery.

The Vandermeulen bottling on the right looks ok, despite the “Château” label. It’s “foxed” with damp stains, which is correct for an old bottle that’s been stored in a cool, damp cellar. This is a European-purchased bottle. One has to be very careful with Vandermeulen bottles in the USA, where very few genuine examples were imported.

The red – rather than the usual grey-black – “1952” on the left-hand bottle is a non sequitur that can cause doubts but, as far as I know, it’s ok. I’ve seen this on bottles of Pétrus 1959 and 1960, for example.

I have an unproven theory that different labels and/or capsules were used for different markets. So, for example, Pétrus that went to the USA might have had the vintage in red. But bottles for the UK or Scandinavia or wherever didn’t. And some of these bottles might have gone to the USA over the years… Who knows? Nobody – not even the estate owners, alas – can give definitive information on these things.

Anyway, the guilty party is… In the centre.

The discrepancies are:

  • Vintage “1952” below “Grand Vin” instead of above “PETRVS”
  • I don’t think that “1er DES GRANDS CRUS” (sic) should be there. I’ve seen it on 1940s Pétrus vintages up until 1949 and never for subsequent vintages but these are things for which it is difficult to be completely certain
  • No mention of “Mme EDMOND LOUBAT”, who owned Pétrus until her death in 1961, after which the estate was divided between a niece and nephew – Mme Lily Lacoste-Loubat and M Lignac – though her name remained on the label until (I think) 1972  
  • “APPELLATION CONTROLEE” at the bottom of the label: “POMEROL” is missing and there’s no circumflex in “CONTRÔLÉE” (though please note that, unlike some bumptious people, I do not have a misguided onanistic obsession with circumflexes and accents on labels, not least because it’s extremely difficult and often impossible to be absolutely sure that a certain label was the one and only design for any given old vintage)

A lot can be judged via a forensic appraisal of bottles, labels, capsules, and corks. Much better in person than with an image, of course.

But ultimately the best way to avoid nasty surprises is to deal with reputable suppliers and to keep the supply chain as tight as possible.

Watch this space for another Pétrus shocker…


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