August 4, 2020

Meet Team Cellr: Scott Evers, Australia’s Top Wine Authenticator

By Angela Oemcke

This is Scott Evers, one of Australia’s top wine authenticators and fraud experts, and now an official ambassador and exclusive partner of Cellr. We have featured him on the Cellr Blog previously, here, so we are extremely thrilled to have him join the Cellr team. We think it’s a pretty perfect fit. 

Scott’s years of experience in the global wine industry combines with his reputation as one of the most skilled wine authenticators in Australia, having undergone training by one of the world’s leading wine fraud experts. In addition to this he has connections and invaluable knowledge attributed directly to consulting for Langtons among a growing list of private clients and auction houses spanning across the globe. You can head over to his website, Wine Provenance, for more information on wine fraud. 

But I’ve said enough, let’s hear it from the man himself and meet Scott Evers.

Why did you decide to specialise in wine authentication? 

I have been in the Wine Industry for most of my working life. I commenced my career as a Sommelier some 25 years ago, and then started up a Wine Import & Distribution company. For the next 15 years my company serviced a portfolio of both local and international wines to the top restaurants around the country.

My passion for wine naturally progressed into amassing an international cellar, which included some of the most sought-after wines from around the globe. I was aware there was a wine counterfeit problem, particularly with the sorts of wines I was collecting, and I had a gut feeling that a couple of wines in my cellar may have been suspect.

So, I developed a thirst to learn more about the taboo world of wine fraud and authentication, in the fervent hope it would enable me to make smarter purchase choices moving forward. I quickly learnt that finding such information was near impossible. There were very few people in the world that can authenticate wine at a professional level, and they seem to keep the art very close to their chest. This thirst for more knowledge developed into a fascination, and I started to think that this could be a great new career move.

Long story short, after some rigorous research and drive (or possibly stubbornness), I was lucky enough to be trained over three years in the art of Wine Authentication and Wine Fraud by one of the world’s leading wine fraud experts. I made the difficult decision to wind back my import and distribution company to exclusively concentrate on this new and unique career within the industry.

 What was it that made Cellr’s counterfeit solution stand out from its counterparts? 

Cellr is not only a very progressive tech company, but it specialises in the Wine Industry and is an Australian owned company. That was very important to me because I had discussions with other highly credible companies that were trying to dabble in many industries – and that concerned me. My belief is that you should specialise in one area or industry and be great at it, rather than spread your wings across many industries, and be only good at it. 

Cellr is not only a very progressive tech company, but it specialises in the Wine Industry and is an Australian owned company. That was very important to me because I had discussions with other highly credible companies that were trying to dabble in many industries – and that concerned me.

Cellr’s model is simple and cost effective. It effectively is a ‘one stop tech shop’ to the Wine Industry – offering a suite of products and services including brand protection, track & trace, and customer engagement solutions. Their technology is state of the art, and they can adapt to an ever changing environment in this space. Most importantly, Cellr can tailor to specific client needs and provide ongoing assistance if required.

Where have you travelled with your work in authentication? What are some of the similarities and differences you have seen between Australia and other continents like Europe and Asia when it comes to the types of wine fraud you have experienced? 

Most of the authentication I have done abroad has been in Asia, predominantly Hong Kong. I was also lucky enough to be part of a team that flew over to the UK to authenticate a complete vertical of both 750ml and large formats of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Chateau Petrus. From memory there were over a dozen counterfeits found within these verticals, mostly recreated counterfeits. 

Asia sadly is a haven for counterfeits. I have literally come across dozens of counterfeits while authenticating in Hong Kong. On my last trip (pre COVID19), I authenticated a disturbing number of counterfeited Henri Jayer, and when we started doing some research into these bottles, we found that they all came from the same Italian vendor. All the counterfeits showed similar ‘red flags’ on each bottle, and it was my opinion that it was likely that he may have actually counterfeited those bottles himself. If that collection had gone through to the auction, this fraudster would have netted himself over $100,000 on the sale!

Australia has much less counterfeits here than Asia thankfully. That said, they are in Australian cellars, sold and resold – that is for sure. Our close proximity to Asia and the relative ease in getting them into this country is of great concern. I would suggest most counterfeits I have come across in Australia have likely been bought in from unsuspecting businessmen and investors from other countries in their luggage, or air freighted in from overseas retailers and auction houses. 

The most common counterfeit bottles in Asia and Australia are refills, followed closely by recreated bottles. I have not come across any unicorn counterfeits in Australia yet (unicorns are wines that were never produced, such as the Domaine Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis that ultimately bought Rudy Kurniawan unstuck).  

You also ran your own global wine distribution business, what challenges have you seen wineries face in keeping a consistent message in the global market? That is beyond simply conveying their message to the consumer, but also making sure that the distributors, key opinion leaders and sales clerks have the correct information about the product.

When I owned my wine import and distribution company, I did not have the luxury of utilising the technology that we have available now. My portfolio consisted of predominantly smaller artisan producers who’s wines packed a punch in quality well above their price point. Smaller producers in particular are at a marketing handicap against the larger producers. For this reason niche marketing and niche market penetration was paramount, and trying to keep track of the global supply chain was an arduous task. Once a producer sells to an importer, then onto a distributor (depending on a countries’ import supply model), it is very difficult for the producer and sometimes even the distributor to control where their wines are being sold. 

For example, my business model was selling my portfolio into the Australian on-premise (restaurant) market, however often I would be flagged by customers informing me that large retailers were selling some of my wines. I didn’t sell to large retailers ever, so it was very frustrating for myself and my restaurant clients to see this happening. This can lead to brand damage, with restaurant clients avoiding those wines that had been bastardised by the chains. Just look at the damage done to Barolo producer Giovanni Rosso after a large online retailer got their hands on this brand!

With the technology at our fingertips today, RFID and NFC will enable producers, decision makers and distributors to better manage and control the supply chain, and enable a more clear and precise branding message to get across to the targeted markets around the globe. 

What is one of your favourite memories working in the wine industry? (do you have a photo)

I have a huge amount of respect for Jancis Robinson MW and regard her as one of the greats of the Wine Industry. I was lucky enough to meet her at a 2000 Bordeaux Classified Growth VIP tasting hosted by US wine critic Robert Parker Jr in Asia some years back. She gave me some of her precious time and we had a lovely chat. It is certainly a highlight of mine.

What are you looking forward to most about collaborating with the Cellr team?

First and foremost they are a great bunch of people to work with. I particularly enjoy working with a smaller, more interactive & progressive group of people, that all have specific skills. With the skills that I can bring into the company, I am confident that collectively we will have a very professional team, and a great platform to offer Wine Industry clients.

So, you head on over the gates of CI Reeves I & II Correctional Facility in Pecos, Texas on the 7th November, 2020 for the release of Rudy Kurniawan after his 10 years in prison…what is the first question you ask him? Followed by? (For reference –

Ha, good question. 

Firstly, I would ask Rudy if he regrets counterfeiting the unicorn Domaine Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis bottle that ultimately brought to his undoing? It was the ‘I got you’ moment when Laurent Ponsot stood up in the Acker-Merrall live auction and stated that he didn’t make Clos Saint-Denis until 1982, eleven years after the youngest vintage was in this sale. I think it is so ironic that a unicorn wine is ultimately the counterfeit wine that bought him down!

Next I would ask him why he chose to keep silent and not spill the beans on his accomplices. We know he didn’t commit this huge fraud alone, and we have enough intel to have a fair idea as to who they were. But he chose to do his 10 years in silence. I’d suspect he has a nice retirement fund in an offshore bank account waiting for him as a thank you for not snitching. 

What was the moment or wine that really sparked your passion for working in the wine industry? 

I worked in hospitality part time to help fund my first University degree way back in 1991. One of the casual jobs I had was working in events at the National Art Gallery in Canberra. My casual job in time transpired to the promotion as Manager of the catering sector of the Gallery, and it was then that I was exposed to a great cellar of iconic wines reserved for politician and dignitary VIP events. I remember sampling an aged Cullen Cabernet Merlot as a young 21 year old at one of these events, and it was a life changing moment for me. I knew then I wanted to specialise in wine.

From your time as a Sommelier, what made a wine stand out to you and what did you look for in a wine when curating lists for venues? 

When creating wine lists, it’s important to choose wines that are most suited to both the cuisine and client market of the restaurant, and also to strike a balance between lesser known artisan wines, and some trusted and highly recognised producers. 

There should be a mix of light-bodied to full-bodied white & red wines, and dry to sweet/dessert wines. If the restaurant is licensed, the list should also include a good mix of wine ‘by the glass’ options, and at different price points. 

I always preferred creating running and adaptive wine lists. As food menus and seasons change, so should the wine list. Certain wines also inevitably run out of stock, so you need to be able to change/update the list regularly. 

Gone are the days when customers dine at a restaurant just because of the food. The expected dining experience nowadays from bistro to fine dining is the full gamat – a combination of food, beverage, service and atmosphere. Bland, lazy, rigid wine lists will inevitably lead to a lack of repeat business. 

It’s a Sunday afternoon, you have nothing to do and not a care in the world. What wine(s) are you drinking, what snack are you pairing it with and what song are you listening to? 

Wow, it’s like you know me too well! 

Depending on the weather and company, it’s likely to be an Australian or German Riesling, Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, Chablis, Nebbiolo Langhe, New or Old world Pinot Noir, Bandol Rose or a Beaujolais. It’s a varied list I know, but they are generally my ‘go to’ wines on a nice relaxing Sunday arvo. 

Funnily enough, we regularly have music playing on a Sunday afternoon at home. I have a ‘Sunday Chill’ playlist that I generally listen to, although often my kids inevitably wear me down and I end up listening to their playlists! I love music and many different genres, from Jack Johnson to Pearl Jam, and 60’s to current. 

You can’t beat a Sunday arvo cheese and charcuterie plate. Any of the wines mentioned above would work with a mix of Cheeses, Meats, Olives, Tapenade, Pates, crusty bread etc. Frankly I wouldn’t get too bogged down with specific wine and food matches in such a relaxed setting, but for me the wine is always decided on before the food in this scenario!

If you could wake up in any wine region in the world tomorrow, which one would it be and what would be the first winery you would visit?

The populist answer to that question would be Burgundy and Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC), but without question, Piedmont and the great Barolo’s are my weakness. The first winery I would visit would be Giacomo Conterno, and then onto Giuseppe Rinaldi. I could die a happy man with a glass of aged Conterno Monfortino in my hand!

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