Maureen Downey, DWS, CWE, FWS
Combatting wine fraud is part and parcel of Maureen’s appreciation of the hard work, skill and artistry that goes into creating great wine. Struck by passionate collectors’ needs for qualified advisory services with their wine collections, Maureen founded Chai Consulting in 2005 to help them focus on their individual needs and passions. For those whose inventories have gone from hobby to headache, the Chai Consulting team organizes wines, recommends storage methods, implements inventory management systems and frees resources in unwanted inventory into surpluses to purchase new treasures. The Chai Consulting team now manages some of the world’s largest and most impressive collections, while continuing to help those just starting out or growing collections, be that for personal pleasure or investment purposes.
With over 20 years of in depth wine industry experience, Maureen Downey stands out as an independent expert on fine and rare wine, and the foremost authority on counterfeit wine and has compiled the largest database on the subject in the world. Specializing in authentication and valuation, Maureen has inspected hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of wine in the course of advising the world’s top collectors, auction houses, wine merchants, restaurants and hotels. In 2014, Chai Consulting received US trademarks for The Chai Method, Wine Authentication and The Chai Method Wine Valuation.
Maureen has also advised the FBI and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in a number of high profile cases. She worked closely with the FBI on the Rudy Kurniawan case, advising them for many years in the initial investigation and in the subsequent lead up to trial. She also consulted for the DOJ prior to trial. Through her comprehensive pre-sentencing reports, which the defense counsel did not contest, she was instrumental in increasing both jail sentence Kurniawan received and the damages apportioned to his victims.
Maureen has assisted and testified for Bill Koch including in Koch v. Greenberg, and has advised him in cases settled out of court including settlements agreed with Acker Merrall & Condit and Royal Wine Merchants. She has also been the expert in numerous other cases in which her detailed and meticulous reports helped victims receive reparation and compensation, including high-profile cases such as that brought by the Proka brothers against Charlie Trotter.
Maureen’s interest in wine began officially while she was studying at Boston University. In her junior year, she and the BU Wine Team won Kevin Zraly’s International Wine Competition. Shortly after graduating she received her sommelier certification, and went on to manage some of New York’s top restaurants including Lespinasse, Felidia and Tavern on the Green.
Maureen subsequently spent six years as a fine and rare wine specialist at top brick-and-mortar auction houses. It was during this time that Maureen honed her skills in fine and rare wine appraisal, valuation, financial trends of global fine wine markets, and wine inventory management. It was also during this time that she discovered a fake wine for the first time. Although her find was unpopular at her workplace, Maureen does not flinch in the face of a challenge, and the vindication of her call by one of the experts in the field led her to hone her skills in this area further, realizing she had a natural talent for it.
Today she is an active wine judge participating in international wine and spirit competitions in the US and abroad. She has her Diploma in Wines & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in London, and is a Certified Wine Educator. She also is a Certified Spanish Wine Educator an International Bordeaux Tutor, and is accredited by the French Government as a French Wine Scholar and Instructor. As a columnist for Wine-Searcher.com, Maureen continually educates collectors and the public about wine collection, wine fraud, and how to avoid fake wines, among other topics. In December 2012, industry magazine Drinks Business named Maureen as one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Wine”.