Toronto – Canada






Navigating The World Of Fake Wine




Here’s why fine wine is one of the better luxury items to counterfeit.  You buy the wine and chances are you don’t open it for a number of years.  When you do open it, you may never have had it so you’re not really sure what it should taste like, even if you know that there’s always bottle variation on older wines.  Then your guests think it’s great because of the placebo effect.  You likely don’t recall who you bought it from years ago and if you do, by the time you bring them the remaining contents, it’s already spoiled.  That’s a lot easier than fine art.


The rise of notoriety of fake wine has come to us via movies like Sour Grapes and coverage of the trial and conviction of infamous fraudster Rudy Kurniawan.  So how prevalent is the issue and what can you do to protect yourself?


The extent of the problem depends on who you talk to and how wide a net you cast when considering “fake” wine.  For example, the recent discovery of 15% of Cotes du Rhone being falsely labeled could fall into the category of fake, and yet what we’re talking about is high-end, small batch.  Some have said up to 20%, but there are arguments on both sides.


At the upper end of the scale are wines that sell for thousands per bottle including Petrus, DRC, Mouton, etc. from great vintages.  A tremendous resource for authentication data is “” run by Maureen Downey. Once a user is approved there is a lot of data on how to spot fakes from these iconic bottles.  There are tell-tale signs (some quite obvious) which can include glass type and color, capsules, incorrect cork markings, label issues and even sediment inconsistent with that varietal at that age.  While these can be hard to spot, I’ve seen things as simple as spelling mistakes of the producer.  The reality however is that a thorough authentication from a trained individual can take an hour plus per bottle and cost in the hundreds of dollars.


The trend more recently seems to be in wines that are unlikely to be the target of a professional authenticator.  Spending a couple hundred on a bottle worth $5000 seems reasonable, but who would even look sideways at a $100 bottle?  With fake wine gaining notoriety, I suspect that this is where the bulk will be found in the future.


So, unless you want to train to become an authenticator (yes, Maureen trains!) then we suggest you work only with a merchant committed to the problem with the talent to spot and the integrity to refund in the event of issue.  And yes, “” is one of those merchants, if I can shamelessly self-promote.


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