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02.26.2006

Look For The High Priced Hologram

I love Brunello. I really do. These Sangiovese based wines of Tuscany have a special place in my heart and when well made, can be utterly absorbing and fantastic. However, they have become in the last 10 years, increasingly overpriced. Perhaps they are following the popular lead of Barolo, which has become consistently the highest priced wine in Italy. Regardless, it's hard to find a decent Brunello these days for under fifty or sixty bucks, making what was once the hearty red of Tuscan farmers now the crystal decanted collectors' wine.

And now, it seems, this high-priced wine is now going to have expensive fraud detection. Billed as a "High tech innovation used to protect wine's authenticity" Brunello producers can now seal their wines with holographic images built into the foil caps. I have a hard time figuring out why this is really necessary. Perhaps some Tuscan producer can chime in here and tell me that their sales have taken a nosedive recently due to a flood of fake Brunello flooding the market, but last time I checked, fraudulent versions of this relatively small production wine (in the scope of many appellations in Italy) wasn't really an issue.

So barring any significant threat to authenticity, these shiny little additions to bottles seem like just the next great wine gadget. There's nothing wrong with that of course -- I'm all for experimentation with technology -- but I can't help think that this high tech addition to every bottle comes with a corresponding increase in price. Winemakers may be investing in this technology, but they expect their wine sales to generate a return on that investment, and barring larger production levels, or cheaper production costs, the only way to make that happen is to raise prices.

So I ask my Italian friends: do you really need a hologram on your wine?

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