The wide boys of wine have struck again, not that their dodgy dealings are likely to part you and I from our hard-earned cash.
The wine they have faked can cost up to $12,000 a bottle, which is a cartload of money unless you happen to be a wealthy Chinese, often with little real knowledge of wine, out to impress your friends with what turns out to be a mediocre burgundy.
'Tis enough to make a grown man weep, even an inscrutable Chinese, who are usually the victims - expecially if you've bought a bottle of the stuff. Worse still if you make the wine that this rubbish purports to be.
Just what the impact of the liquid counterfeit will be be on Romanee-Conti, makers of what is often referred to as the world's finest and most expensive wine (in 1780 the Archbishop of Paris declared it "velvet and satin in bottles") is anybody's guess.
But it's a question you can bet will be asked of the revered Aubert de Villaine, co-owner and director of the famous Domaine de la Romanee-Conti when he attends the 10th annual Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration in January- February next year.
Hopefully, and for his sake, the remainder of the European gang (two Italians have so far been detained) responsible for producing and selling hundreds of bottles of the fake wine, should have been rounded up by then.
Whatever the case his impending visit speaks volumes for the growing worldwide reputation of New Zealand wine in general, particularly pinot noir, and especially that produced in Central Otago which will host visitors from around the world for the event.
I know that on such occasions it's usually only the best that ever passes the lips of those taking part.
But I also know that in the rarefied world of fine wines this equates to pinot noirs that, while they might be relatively expensive by Joe Blow's standards, are very good value in the wider world of the great Burgundian red.
Which in the not-too-distance past still left the average punter sipping cheap Australian shiraz, a merlot or whatever else qualified as a "reasonably-priced" red wine.
Fortunately this is not longer the case. With the rapid expansion of pinot plantings and production there is now a small fleet of cheaper and not always entry level wines on the market.
OK, they might not generally reflect the same seductive qualities as the premium pinot noirs but they certainly provide the drinker who is sensible and adventurous enough to explore the various varieties of wine, with a taste of what they are all about.
In fact, the lighter of these often raspberried wines can provide an excellent drink during summer, especially with food that would be overwhelmed by full-on, multi-fruited pinot noirs.
And unlike the more distinguished of their kind you do not have to wait half a lifetime for them to reach what is considered to be their peak.
They are made for early drinking.
Some good examples:
Mud House 2012 Central Otago Pinot Noir, $25-$30
A generous cherried, brambly wine with a whiff of coffee that was awarded the top commercial red trophy and a gold at the International Wine Show.
Gunn Estate 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir, $15-$20
A vibrant, cherried Marlborough wine with an appealing earthy, spicy character.
Hard to beat at this price.
Dashwood 2012 Pinot Noir $15-$20
A soft and silky, gold medal-winning Marlborough pinot noir driven by cherries, berries and plums.
A crowd-pleaser that has been selling for as little as $14.99.
Saddleback 2011 Central Otago Pinot Noir, $20-$25
Cherries and berries make friends with spice and florals in this very drinkable pinot made by Peregrine in the Gibbston Valley. Good price.
Ara 2012 Single Estate Pinot Noir, $20-$25
Nothing like a sexy, smoky medium- weight pinot with a hint of olives to wash down seared fish.
This one certainly does the trick.
- The Southland Times