How to recognise a fake wine

here is a dark side to the wine trade: counterfeiting and fraud are commonplace. But not all counterfeiters have the necessary equipment to produce perfect copies of expensive wines. "There are also homemade fakes, where labels are simply copied and the capsules are dirty," say we, experts in the wine trade. Such fakes are easy to spot, they say. But there are also more sophisticated methods. One commonly used tactic is to tamper with the bottle by sticking a needle through the capsule and cork to alter the contents or even add wine to improve the quality.

Bottles brought directly to the wine cellar by the seller are particularly problematic. It can take years before fraud is discovered. One reason for this is the thriving market for empty, original bottles, labels and even corks that can be used by counterfeiters. We warn against the fakes that are particularly hard to spot: "Sometimes original bottles that have been refilled are difficult to distinguish from genuine ones. There are also very well-made new fakes coming onto the market that can originate from organised crime circles."

Reports of counterfeit wines sold for horrendous sums are surfacing again and again. Wine experts therefore warn of the risks and recommend to rely on reputable traders when buying and to have the wine professionally checked if in doubt.

Faked Chateau Lafite Rothschild label
Faked Chateau Lafite Rothschild label
Compared with original label (most right one)
Compared with original label (most right one)

How wineries protect themselves from counterfeit wines - features to recognise fakes

The threat of counterfeiting and fraud in the wine trade is an ongoing issue. Wineries are aware that they need to protect their products. One way to do this is to introduce special security features on the bottles.

One example is Château Pétrus, which uses a special pattern on the label of its new bottles that is only visible with a special light source. Another example is holograms, similar to those found on banknotes. Other wineries use labels with a QR code on the bottle that allows buyers to trace the bottle's journey. This allows the customer to trace the origin of the wine from its release by the winery, through the retailer who bought the bottle, to its sale to the end customer.

These security measures should help to stop the trade in counterfeit wines and increase buyers' confidence in the wine trade. However, it remains a challenge to stay ahead of the counterfeiters and develop new technologies to improve their counterfeits.

Tips for customers to identify or recognise wine counterfeits:

  1. Do the arrangement and design of the labels match?
  2. Are the closures undamaged and do they resemble the original closures?
  3. Do the corks bear the authentic brand imprint of the winery on the side?
  4. Does the bottle contour and the glass used correspond to the original?
  5. How can the origin of the bottle be traced?
Fake wine capsule
Fake wine capsule
Original wine capsule
Original wine capsule

The most frequently faked wines:

 If you are planning to buy expensive wines, you need to be extremely careful as it is so easy to get fake wines on the market these days. The following wines are among the most counterfeited high quality wines in the world: 

  • Château Lafite Rothschild
  • Château Margaux
  • Château Mouton Rothschild
  • Château Haut-Brion
  • Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
  • Château d'Yquem
  • Penfolds Grange
  • Sassicaia
  • Opus One
  • Krug Champagne



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