Stuff You Should Know | Podcast Review | October 20, 2015 | By

Stuff You Should Know: “How Wine Fraud Works”

“Nobody bothers to rip off a $15 bottle of wine… Not true Chuck”

Josh and Chuck are back at it this week, taking on the topic of wine fraud! Despite what I thought, wine fraud does not actually mean people being convinced that their $200 California Cab Sauv tastes any different than your $15 convenience store specialty red from Australia. 1

But Josh, Chuck implores, “Nobody bothers to rip off a $15 bottle of wine!”

“Not true Chuck.” 2

To Chuck’s (and my) surprise, wine fraud happens more frequently than you’d expect. Which, thankfully, is yet another reason to always pick the cheap—but not the cheapest—bottle. So many people have their fingers in this fraudulent pot, it’s hard to track. And many of the parties involved in the high-end collectible wine trade aren’t particularly incentivized to address the problem.

In collecting and tasting fraudulent wine, one can end up in like the Ouroboros. 3 If you’ve only been exposed to fraudulent 18th century wine, you will misjudge appropriately aged wine that is legitimate. Some don’t taste good if they’re legitimate or not.

But I think that doesn’t really matter—obviously you don’t drink your authentic Jefferson wine from Monticello’s vineyard.  Instead, you drink the tears of your plebeian friends who are jealous of your wine collection.

Apparently Jefferson 4 wine is a big deal, based on the amount Chuck references it as the standard for collectible wine. After a little Googling, it seems that the Jefferson wines are some of the most famous wines to be faked, but not necessarily the most famous of all really old fermented grapes.

Before you go out and try to start collecting these pricey potent potables, you need fat stacks. Thankfully for Bill Koch—one of the less political but still rich Koch brothers—has said fat stacks. He thus owns thousands and thousands of bottles. Unfortunately for Bill, that means Bill Koch has hundreds and hundreds of fake bottles. Because, as Josh and Chuck tell us, that’s about average for an avid wine collector. There’s a lot of suckers out there.

The biggest con artist in the wine game, and arch nemesis of Bill Koch, borrowed his way into the business—according to Josh and Chuck he just got millions from the bank. The dude made $34 million in sales in one year.

It’s pretty clear that the only way to win this game is to avoid playing (or to live long enough to see yourself become the villain). Kids, I’m begging you. It’s like buying penny stocks from Jordan Belfort. 5 The long and short of being a wine fraud is surprisingly unsurprisingly simple, given how people act around both really rich people and fancy wine.

Step one: convincingly act as an eccentric rich man.

Step two: Josh and Chuck will fill you in.

He would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for some meddling kids. And by kids, I of course mean Thomas Jefferson’s impeccable record keeping from over two centuries ago. 6

Josh and Chuck conclude this week with questions from Facebook. 7 So also tune in to discover Josh and Chuck’s favorite types of beers!


How Vestigial Organs Works

Unless you don’t believe in evolution—in which case there’s got to be almost no chance that you listen to Josh and Chuck anyway—please give their episode about vestigial organs a listen. I guarantee you will at least learn how to pronounce vestigial correctly, and if you stick around you’ll learn some cool stuff too. It’s laden with more facts than their average episode, which I found awesome. In the next 5 years, you will vaguely remember something from this episode in a bar trivia game and promptly fail to remember what it was.

  1. Still think that is a valid definition. ^
  2. Just ask British grocery chain Tesco ^
  3. A snake that eats its own tail, or a viral organism from the game Resident Evil 5; I’ll leave you to decide which they meant. ^
  4. Go Hoos ^
  5. Meaning, unless you’re my friend Drew, you just aren’t winning. ^
  6. Again, Go Hoos. ^
  7. Up until this moment I genuinely believed they only responded to handwritten letters ^

About the Author

Nick Wade is a founding writer at Audiologue, where he writes about The Sporkful and Stuff  You Should Know. You can find him at

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