Counterfeit and Fake Wines
- Provenance: reliability and integrity of the source (people/business) we buy the wines from (Negociants, brokers, merchants, wholesalers, retailers) and the conditions the wines were kept prior to buying them (to ensure the quality and authenticity of the wines - i.e. we prefer to buy wines directly at the winery if possible or from a reliable source that buys the wines directly at the winery) (i.e. no wine that has traveled 10 times around the world or from a retailer where the bottles have been stored standing up under bright lights and/or (even worst) cooking as displayed on the window and with the air conditioner switched off at night...)
- Prices: Comparative Market Analysis (to make sure that we buy at fair prices) between the prices of
- Wine-Searcher (Retail Prices),
- Other sources if needed
- Logistics: cooperate with our internal Cellars & Logistics department to insure (prior and during transit until final destination) that
- Transport/logistic/shipping is done via a reputable or preferably a specialized shipper/freight forwarder
- The wines have been kept, prior to departure and when in transit during the shipping, in the most ideal conditions (i.e. Reefer container with additional Temperature/Humidity Control device recording data from departure to the final destination inside, container air quality control, etc…)
- Quantitative and Qualitative Inspection of the wines prior to buying (if possible) and more especially Inspection at goods receiving, which is probably the most important phase, in order to ensure that
- The order is complete quantitatively at arrival
- nothing is missing,
- correct amount of pallets, cases, and bottles
- The order is in good condition at arrival
- no broken cases or bottles,
- no seepage or leakage,
- pallets well put together,
- cases clean without mold or bugs or anything else,
- Temperature/humidity checked at container doors opening
- If anything is wrong with (a.) and/or (b.), follow up with the shipper, freight forwarder, insurer and/or the original source (negociants/brokers/merchants) is done first to inform them, then deal with the situation, make sure that the insurance cover the particular incident (if the wines have been insured for this kind of problem), then eventually negotiate
- a discount
- a reimbursement
- An exchange
- a return of the damaged goods
- Questions to ask yourself and to be answered prior to buying an old/rare/expensive bottle
- Qualitative Inspection Method (What to check?)
- Techniques of Recognition (How to detect and recognize)
- Prevention (Disfiguring/defacing the label and breaking the cork)
- Security (Anti-Fraud Technologies)
Questions to ask yourself and to be answered prior to buying an old/rare/expensive bottle
LeDomduVin - Questions to be answered
prior to buying an old/rare/expensive bottles Table
Questions prior buying an expensive bottle
Suppliers, Distributors, Negociants, Brokers, Merchants
or Auction Houses
Are they honest, serious, and reliable?
Do they buy the wine directly at or from the winery?
Or do they buy the wine on the market?
From whom? private collectors? stores? or other suppliers?
Do they store the wine in good condition?
Do they have their own wine storage facility or warehouse?
If Yes, do they store only their wines?
Or do they share it with other suppliers or clients?
If No, is the 3rd party storage company they use reliable and trustable?
Do the wines come directly from the winery?
Or does it transit first via a 3rd party company (warehouse, negociants, etc…) for storage prior to being shipped?
How has it been shipped? (reefer truck or container?)
And when? (during winter or summertime?)
Which route did it take?
Was the temperature level in the reefer truck or container recorded during transit?
Are the data available?
Can Temperature / Humidity data recording devices like eProvenance or similar be available and/or requestable?
Was the container always plugged in and at an ideal temperature all along during the transit?
And more importantly during the few stops in between departure and arrival at the final destination? (change of transportation, during the waiting time period for formalities at customs, etc…)
Does it come directly from the winery?
What are the bottle conditions? (label, capsule, bottle, cork, sedimentation, aspect of the wine, level of the wine, etc…)
Was it reconditioned at some point?
Was it sent back to the winery for relabelling? recorking? or even refilling? Or the 3 of them?
When and where was the reconditioning done?
Was it previously owned?
A store? A private collector?
How many times was it sold?
And at what price?
How many times did it go around the world?
How was the storage condition used by the previous owner?
Private cellar? Storage Company? In the garage?
Qualitative Inspection Method
LeDomduVin - Qualitative Inspection Method Table
Inspection abbreviations & details
OWC (original wooden case)
WC (wooden case)
OC (original carton)
CB (carton Box)
SB (shipping box)
GB (gift box)
Case Packing Closing
OWC with previously opened Lid
OWC without Lid
OWC with original winery straps
OWC with metallic straps
OWC no straps
OWC Branded or Not
WC (non-original wooden case)
OC Taped + Stapled
Case Packing Inside
Plastic tray dividers
Bottles Straw wrapped
Bottles Tissue paper wrapped
Styrofoam compartments or dividers
2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, or 24 Bottles
Security Tape (Chateau or Supplier)
Original Chateau Strip
Bottle Authenticy System
QR Code (on the back label or at capsule base)
NFC closure Tag technology
Plastic Sealed Cap
Engraved ID (on or in the bottle)
Fluorescent security strip or ink or encryption
CC (Corroded Capsule)
TC (Torn Capsule)
CUC (Cut Capsule)
NC (Nicked Capsule)
WC (Wrinkled Capsule - or Creases)
WXC (Wax Capsule)
OW (Original Wax)
CW (Cracked Wax)
RC (Rusted Capsule)
SOS (Sign of Seepage)
SSOS (slight Sign of Seepage)
FSOS (Fresh Sign of Seepage - Wet)
OSOS (Old Sign Of Seepage - Dry)
NOC (No Capsule)
DC (Depressed Cork)
SDC (Slightly Depressed Cork)
PC (Protruding Cork)
SPC (Slightly protruding Cork)
Original Cork (new or Old)
Tartrate crystals at the bottom
(prefix: S=Slightly L=Lightly H=Heavily)
HF (High Fill)
LF (Low Fill)
IN (Into Neck)
BN (Bottom or Base Neck)
TS (Top Shoulder)
VHS (Very High Shoulder)
HS (High Shoulder)
HSMS (High to Mid Shoulder)
US (Upper Shoulder)
MS (Mid Shoulder)
LS (Low Shoulder)
Level from the cork's bottom to wine level
depending on the vintage and wine type
(3cm, 4cm, 5cm, 6cm, etc,..)
New or Old
Look genuine for the vintage
DTL (Detached label - dry due to storage conditions)
LL (Loose Label)
DSL (Discolored Label)
FL (Faded Label)
DRL (Dirty Label)
BSL (Bin Soiled Label)
TL (Torn Label)
NL (Nicked Label)
SCL (Scuffed Label)
TAL (Tattered Label)
WRL (Wrinkled Label)
TSL (Tissue Stained Label)
WL (Writing on the label)
IL (Illegible Label)
STL (Stained label)
WISL (Wine Stained Label - Dry)
WASL (Water Stained Label - Dry)
DSL (Damp Stained Label - Wet - Water or Wine)
GS (Glue Striped)
GSL (Glue Stained Label)
GM (Glue Marks)
Label Paper Genuity
Label Printing Genuity
Ink Color and Quality
Label stuck in angle
Label not fitting the old label frame mark
NOL (No Label)
(prefix: S=Slightly L=Lightly H=Heavily)
Cloudy or Hazy
Correct color for the vintage
Brown (for Red - altered/damaged/oxidized)
Golden (for dry White - altered/damaged/oxidized)
Lots of Sediments
No Sediments (bad sign depending on the vintage)
Tartaric Precipitation (tartrate crystals or flakes)
New or Old
Handmade / misshaped / defaults
Rust marks or stains
Chipped / Dented
Brand Engraved on the bottle
Label Engraved on the bottle
Wine Stains (dry old seepage/leakage)
Unusual Punt (bottom of the bottle)
Punt too deep or not enough
Punt not showing usual engraved Marks
Engraved bottle ID or Code
Embedded bottle ID or Code
Source / additional Label (more especially for older vintages prior 90s)
US Importer's Label
UK or other Importer's Label
Auction House Label or Sticker
(Christie's, Acker, Sotheby's, etc..)
US, UK, or Other Distributor's label
French Negociant Label
Integrated Label to the main label
Techniques of Recognition
LeDomduVin - Techniques to detect and/or recognize
counterfeit and/or fake wines table
Details / Pictures
who you are buying your wine from?
where the wine has been before?
where and how it has been stored previously?
(see more details in the “Questions to be answered prior to buying an old/rare/expensive bottles” table in chapter 1.)
If the price is too low, it is usually a sign that the bottle might have a problem (bad conditions, damaged label or capsule, old seepage, etc…), but might also indicate a counterfeit or fake wine with dubious origins
Therefore, as explained above in my job descriptions, it is important to do a comparative Market Analysis (to make sure that you buy at fair prices) between the prices of long-established reliable websites to estimate the trend:
Here is an example of a dubiously low price:
For the capsule, if it appears
then it is probably the case that the capsule has been previously removed or tampered with, and it might indicate a counterfeit wine.
For decades, as labels were printed by lithography techniques, letter fonts used on wine labels (and capsules) were usually difficult to reproduce, as they were very distinct to a specific winery name or brand, and as they were not necessarily available on the market and most of the time created specifically for a specific wine or winery.
“Ultrawhite” wine label paper that is fluorescent under blue light was only introduced to the market in the late 1950s; therefore, unless the bottle has been relabeled at the winery due to a necessary/requested reconditioning of the bottle, any vintages prior to 1957 with an Ultrawhite label is surely a fake.
Nowadays most fonts can be found on the Internet and printing is an easy-going process (Sheet-fed offset, Flexography, UV or water-based, Rotary-offset - (Conventional or waterless), Digital, etc..), so, to counter the problem, wineries use specific ink, shape and/or label paper that is made unique or difficult to reproduce through various processes.
Flexographic presses are preferred as they are much more versatile than digital presses, and allow for foil stamping, embossing, and applying a variety of finishes that cannot be done on digital presses.
Therefore, you should keep a careful eye on the label for
This picture (courtesy of www.wine-searcher.com) of Rudy Kurniawan’s Petrus labels proves how easy it can be to reproduce the original
And how about this sparkling clean label of Petrus 1961
Small differences in letters fonts, size, and/or color usually denote a counterfeit or fake wine. Will you be able to spot the counterfeit wine in the image below (posted by The Wine Wankers on Instagram)?
Fake wines may use the same exact font and type or style of the label but usually spelling mistakes or obvious entirely different label color, name, or other details on the label will definitely indicate them, like on the picture above and more especially this picture of “Pacurs” instead of “Petrus”
Sometimes, fake wines can be surprisingly absurd like the one below
Or for marketing reasons, fake wines are lookalike of highly expensive wines like the one below (seen in China)
Or even this one below which is really messed up…
CHATEAU SUPERIEUR DE ROTHSCKILD (LAFITL) Haut-médoc
(screenshot of a video found on internet)
Unbelievable, isn’t it?
These are only a few examples but the market is flooded with these counterfeits and fake wines if you pay a bit of attention to the details.
Vintages not produced
Counterfeit wines are usually copies of the top Chateaux and Domaines of Bordeaux and Burgundy in the best vintages like 1900, 1921, 1928, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1959, 1961, 1964, 1978, 1982, 1990 and very speculative vintages like 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010
It is highly recommended to verify the source and inspect thoroughly each bottle with an expert eye when buying bottles from these vintages as many of the rare ones left on the market are probably fake.
People in the know tend to say that there are more bottles of these particular vintages circulating in China than the amount ever produced at the winery.
Therefore it is crucial to do some research about the wine and vintage first.
But counterfeit wines also come in vintages that were never produced at the winery. It is difficult to generalize to one region in particular, so it has to be taken on a case-by-case scenario depending on a particular vintage for a specific producer.
Also during certain bad vintages, only small quantities from a handful of producers were produced and are likely not to be available on the current market.
For example, 1991 in Bordeaux was a bad vintage due to difficult weather conditions (ail storm, etc..); therefore most producers made little to no wine that year, and there is barely no availability on the market anymore.
Sizes not produced
Counterfeits for old vintages tend to come in sizes that were not produced at the winery or distributed by the negociants/brokers/merchants at the time. Here are a few examples:
Wrong Appellation or an Appellation not existing at the time
Counterfeit / Fake Wines may also mention the wrong appellation or even appellation that did not exist at the time.
In France, the AOC system was historically created to combat fraud. The concept of “Appellations d'Origine Controlée” was gradually built up at the beginning of the 20th century (law of 1905). The “Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée” was created with the Decree-Law of 1935 to defend the French Wine Market and more specifically the name of the regions and more precisely the various wines produced in these regions and their respective grape varieties.
For example, long ago, specific words like “Chablis”, “Champagne”, “Burgundy” escaped from that regulations and are or were widely wrongly used in the US. The Americans took these words for granted, standardize them, and basically called their red wines “Burgundies” and their whites “Chablis”. The region of Champagne has won the battle, and US sparkling wines cannot write “Champagne” on their label anymore. However, Chablis and Burgundy are still widely used in the US and often represent cheap bulk wines.
The Decree-Law of 1935 was applicable to the wines and spirits, and the INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité) was responsible for their definition, protection, and control. Most of the French Appellations are dating back to 1936 and after. The AOC regulation was extended to all agricultural and food products in 1990.
Any bottle prior to 1935 may have not indicated the appellation on the label, therefore, unless the bottle has been relabeled at the winery due to a necessary/requested reconditioning of the bottle, or if it was current practice at the time for the negociant/broker/merchant of that specific wine to mention the name of the region of origin, any vintages prior 1935 mentioning it is surely a fake.
Consult the list of the Appellation Controlee of Wikipedia for the date (I could not find the official list on the website of the INAO… maybe an idea for them to add)
Wrong Owner or Producer
Be aware of the owner changes. Counterfeit / Fake wines may state the wrong owner or producer on the label (due to lack of knowledge usually or simply counting on the credulity of some uninformed buyers).
It is quite hard to know the ownership history of most Chateaux, however, buyers should take on the effort to do some research prior to buying an old/rare/expensive bottle of wine.
For example, Cos d’Estournel changed hands several times since its classification in 1855
1810 - “Cos d'Estournel” was named by Louis-Gaspard d'Estournel
1852 - Purchased by the English banker Charles Cecil Martyns
1869 - Sold to the Spanish Errazu family
1889 - Sold to the Bordeaux-based Hostein family.
1894 - Louis-Victor Charmolue, who also owned Château Montrose, gained control of Cos d'Estournel
1917 - Sold to Fernand Ginestet
1970 - Became part of Domaines Prats, it was a combined holding of the Ginestet and Prats families and controlled by Bruno Prats.
1998 - Sold to the Merlaut Family
2000 - Sold to Michel Reybier
Prevention - Disfiguring/defacing the labels and destroying the corks
|Bottles of Wine prior to being defaced/disfigured - LeDomduVin ©|
|Bottles of Wine after being defaced/disfigured - LeDomduVin ©|
|Bottles of Wine after being defaced/disfigured - LeDomduVin ©|
Security (Anti-Fraud Technologies)
- Assurance of non-reproducibility
- Assurance of unicity for each bottle
- Visual authentication by the consumer
- Automatic control with the reader
- Proof of Integrity
- Prevent eventual opportunist refilling
- Prevent bottle recycling
- Proof of origin
- Regulation conformity
- Crisis situation management
- Unitary tracking
- Difficult to duplicate due to unique patterns
- Leave a mark on the capsule (and/or bottle) if/when removed
- Can’t be removed if embedded in the label (or even bottle)
- Can’t be seen or detected easily without the adequate tools
- Proprietary Paper
- Tagged and/or Invisible Ink
- Tamper-proof Capsule Seal
- Hologram and encrypted micro text or marks
- NFC / RFID Chips with QR Code
|Courtesy of SigNatures © DNA Protection|
|Courtesy of DNA-SmartMark™|
|Bubble Proof Tag Example - LeDomduVin ©|
|Screenshot of Selinko Website - Courtesy of Selinko NFC Tag Technologies|
|RFID Embedded Label for Wine Cases example found on the internet|
|Chart Picture courtesy of www.vinfolio.com (blog)|
- Code and/or Bottle number + date engraved in the bottle
|Example of Code + Date embedded in the bottle - LeDomduVin ©|
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