Fake news, fake products, fake art, fake money…

It seems that we live in an age in which everything is plagiarized and counterfeited. Therefore, when you hear about fake wine, it shouldn’t be much surprising to you.

We know it’s not a small thing. It’s already a massive issue that has the potential to disrupt the wine industry.

How much of an issue is Wine Fraud?

Just in the UK, the losses to wine fraud are counted in millions of British pounds. As a result, both the police department and the Department of Trade and Industry are becoming heavily involved in solving those cases. In many cases, even Interpol was involved.

Then, there is the US in which numerous investors were deceived by a fraudulent win investment firm. They lost hundreds of millions. That prompted investigations from the FBI and other security agencies.

There are even more reports from basically any part of the world where there is a developed wine industry or wine trade.

It won’t be an overestimate to say that wine fraud causes hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to the wine industry.

Wine fraud
Wine fraud is responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to the wine industry – and due to the lack of reporting, it’s likely that the actual amount of damage is significantly higher.

Common Wine Fraud Practices

In the wine industry, the term wine fraud is most commonly associated with adulteration of wine with certain cheaper products like juices and sweeteners. On some occasions, there are even chemicals that are harmful to people.

Then there is relabeling of cheaper wines to be sold as premium wines and at a premium price. This is also a quite common form of wine fraud.

Another category of wine fraud is associated with investments made in the wine industry. For example, sometimes, wine investors are asked to invest in a wine company that is about to get liquidated. Investors then invest their money, but they don’t know the full picture and what is about to happen to the company. Very often, the wine is never bought.

Dealing with Wine Fraud

Telling an original from a fake can sometimes be very challenging, while other times, you will instantly know. In most cases, it all comes down to how good the forger is and what’s the ultimate goal. Here are a few practical tips on how to determine whether you got an authentic wine or a fake one.

Work only with trusted sellers

Buying from sellers that you don’t know much about or someone new on the wine market has its risks. On the other hand, buying from someone that has an outstanding reputation or a seller you have worked with for many years, is a proven method.

If you are offered a deal that looks too good to be true, then you should probably walk away from it. If you’re offered a Levy & McClellan Cabernet Sauvignon for just $100 (with a standard price of almost 6x that) then you’re likely just being scammed.

The Paper Never Lies

If you are offered an expensive bottle of wine, first check the paper. Many wine buyers use UV lights to determine the authenticity of the wines they buy. For example, if you are offered a bottle of wine that dates from the 1950s, and its label shines quite a lot under the UV light, then you should probably walk away from the sale.

UV Light Label
UV Light can commonly be used to check for fake wine, for when labels have been artificially printed at a significantly later date than the original bottle should have been

Furthermore, all paper oxidizes consistently across the entire label, not just on one or two corners. That’s a method often used by Maureen Downey, a fake wine expert that is known in the wine world as “the Sherlock of the wine industry”.

The Quality of the Print

According to Downey, the print quality can be a dead giveaway of counterfeit wine. In the past, wine labels were made with plate press printing. Typically, plate press printing has an outline that can be easily spotted under magnification. On the other hand, colored spots or pixelation on the label point to inkjet printing.

Check for Sediment

Almost by default, old red wines need to come with sediment, which should be visible. If the sediment is there but is static, then you are looking at potentially fake wine. There is a pretty good chance that some fraudsters are behind it.

The Bottle

Wine bottles that were made before the 19th century were all hand-blown. As a result, almost all of them tend to be a bit wobbly when placed on a solid surface. Then some bottles were made after the 1930s. Typically, they have their capacity embossed on the glass.

In Conclusion

Along with the strategies we have discussed above, you can also observe corks, glue, and label color. Armed with some knowledge, a blue UV light, and maybe a microscope, you can turn into a true wine detective. That way, you can never be a victim of wine fraud. The trick is to take into account every detail, and only then, you will be able to authenticate a wine.