5 Checks to Spot Counterfeit Wine Bottles

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Developing an appreciation for the good things in life, makes us all angry to see them corrupted by con-artists, right?

Why is the Wine Market Attractive for Fraudsters

The high end wine market around the globe has attracted the attention of many including these con-artists. Recently, here in California a wine con-artist was prosecuted and sent to prison for ten years. However, it can happen anywhere.

On June 26th, Spectator Life published an article entitled, How to Spot Counterfeit Wine – Con Artists are Flooding Wine Market with Fakes “Counterfeiting is so lucrative that fakes may represent up to a fifth of the fine wine market.”

Experts Explain

Maureen Downey shares some tips in the South China Morning Post article posted on March 2nd. – Is Hong Kong Awash with Fake Wines? We Seek Expert Knowledge.  “Downey … (San Francisco native, who set up winefraud.com in 2015) … was in Hong Kong recently to educate wine industry representatives on the problem of counterfeits – cheap wines dressed up to look like more expensive ones. She believes the city has become a dumping ground since the Kurniawan case came to light, as US collectors try to offload any fakes they find.”

Many Chinese wine enthusiasts have been the victims of fraud. One problem that Downey sees is that “China’s high import duty on wine, which results in some collectors hiring what Downey calls “coyotes” to bring in bottles through non-taxable channels – but these importers could also be switching the real ones for fakes.” There is a great incentive to go around the legitimate importing process.

Generational collecting is a way that Europe has prevented many of these fake investment level wines from being circulated. These generational collection channels are nonexistent in both the United States and China.

Learn more about wine fraud in The Wine Detectives – BBC Radio 28 minute audio. How do you know the wine in a bottle is what it says on the label? Master of Wine Susie Barrie goes hot on the scent of counterfeit wines and follows the experts employed to distinguish plonk from prestige vintages…

We Should All Be Vigilant to Wine Fraud

This doesn’t just impact the high end market. Understandably, it can be dangerous and unhealthy on many market levels. Thieves do not typically care about sanitation or safe practices. So, it is important for us all to know how to spot counterfeit bottles of wines to protect ourselves and our wallets.


5 Checks to Spot Counterfeit Wine Bottles

5 Ways to Spot Checks to Identify Counterfeit Wine Bottles –

  1. Fact Check – to see if the wine you are thinking about ACTUALLY EXISTS. This applies to both the high end and table wine markets. (If it is popular or pricey, thieves will make imitations of the real thing.)
  2. Bottle Check – The second thing is to check the state of the bottles themselves. Earlier, hand-blown glass won’t be flawless or smooth, and has tell-tale imperfections cautions the Spectator Life article. For older high end collector wine bottles, this is very important.
  3. Spell Check – the labels and visually inspect them for something that is a little off the mark. Fraudsters do not always speak the native language of the vintner or winery. So, they copy things incorrectly. While there are techniques to age bottle labels on collector quality bottles, most table wines are copied to deceive the general public.
  4. Cork/Closure Check – visually inspect the way the bottle is sealed. Does the cork appear to be damaged in anyway? Corks can be a big clue. Many vintners are choosing to break bottles at tasting rooms and tastings to prevent thieves from refilling and resealing their bottles for sale. Look closely at the seals on the bottles for signs of being refilled. Certainly glue on the cork is a definite sign that something is amiss.
  5. Logic Check – does it all match? If you are buying an older vintage bottle of wine, it should not come with a screw top. Does that varietal of grape actually exist? Is it all one language on the original label? Does the cork age match the age listed on the label? When buying a bottle of wine to drink with dinner, stop and see what you observe. If it doesn’t “feel right,” do not buy it.

Therefore being careful can save you and those you would like to share a bottle of wine from health concerns. Understandably, it is worth an extra minute or two to fully examine the wines you purchase to invest your money or your enjoyment in. While not all of us are collectors, we are all wine enthusiasts.

Vigilance and careful attention to our purchases will help prevent anyone else from becoming wine fraud victims.

Born a Southern girl, I was transplanted a few times as a Navy wife! Now, our “retired” USN family, calls CA home. As UNC business school grad, I gained lots of useful insights by finding different opportunities and challenges along our military life’s path. Love of traveling, making friends, experiencing other cultures and sharing the best of all that with everyone are now all part of me.

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