With a wine industry as massive as the one boasted by the Italians, it should come as no surprise that fraudsters and even some legitimate producers attempt to use the names of the great wines produced in the country for their own profit.
These “fake” wines can leave drinkers feeling cheated, not only because they have missed out on the quality that comes with the real thing, but also because they may have spent just as much on the fake bottle as they would have the legitimate one, only to receive a lesser product or something that they weren’t expecting.
For example, those who enjoy Lambrusco are often caught out by the fact that the wine is also produced in Australia and Argentina, with wildly varying results when it comes to quality. The Australian version, in particular, tends to be much weaker and is produced more as a weak wine than the quality product you would find from Italian producers.
So how do you go about spotting these fakes and ensuring you get the real thing? Here are a few warning signs to look for.
The Country of Origin
Many of the fakes you may find really don’t fit the description of fake at all. As previously mentioned, many countries start using grapes that are used in Italian wines of their own accord and market the wines using the name of the grape. This can lead to clashes with the Italian originals.
This means you should always take a little bit of time to check the label to ensure the country of origin is the one you expected. For Italian wine drinkers, you should also be looking for either the DOC, DOCG or IGT certifications. If the wine doesn’t carry any of those hallmarks, you should not be paying anywhere near what you would for the real thing.
We are certainly not going to claim that buying from unknown retailers always leads to purchasing fakes. After all, everybody has to get their start somewhere. However, we do believe that it is important to do a little research so you can find out more about the merchant before committing your money to a wine.
This is particularly important when buying wines online. Happily, there are plenty of review sites out there where you can find out more about the quality and legitimacy of the wines sold by different websites, which can put your mind at ease and reassure you that the wines you purchase come from a legitimate retailer.
Be Wary of Older Wines
Fakery in the wine industry most commonly occurs with older wines, resulting in people spending a lot of money on what they believe to be vintage products, only to be stung once they find out the wines they have bought are actually not the originals.
There are a couple of things you can look out for when buying older wines, which should prove particularly useful to budding investors. For one, you should be wary of any products that sound a little fishy. Five litre bottles of old wines that you know weren’t produced in those quantities are obviously fake and a little bit of research will generally help you discover the attributes you really need to be looking for.
The label can also be a great way to determine the legitimacy of a bottle. Many fakers will pass of new wines and older vintages by creating reproductions of the latter’s label. However, many do not go so far as to source the right paper. A technique known as “ultrawhite” was introduced in the 1950s and is now used for the paper on most modern wine bottles. Ultrawhite paper fluoresces when placed under blue light, so any “vintage” from before 1957 that has a label that does this is usually going to be a fake.
Read All of the Small Print
A lot of fakers go to great efforts to make their wines sound legitimate, which often means they end up making reference to a number of grape varieties and other historical or production information that can be researched.
This can play to your advantage, as you can research the bottle of wine using the internet to check that all of the facts mentioned in the small print of the label actually match up to what is known about the wine in question. You have a fake on your hands if there are any contradictions or historical inaccuracies present, as legitimate wine producers have great respect for their histories are and extremely unlikely to get these sorts of facts wrong.
Remember the Glass
Glass production techniques have changed markedly over the years, which means you can expect to see some differences in older glass than that used in modern wine bottles. Again, this is useful information for people searching for older wines. For example, many bottles producer prior to the 20th century were hand-blown, which means they have inaccuracies. This often leads to slight wobbles when placed on flat surfaces, so the lack of this can be a giveaway that the wine you have is not as old as you have been lead to believe.
Many producers also emboss details into their glass. A good example of this is in French wine bottles, which have had their capacities embossed in the bottles since the 1930s. Again, knowing to look for this and being able to spot when it isn’t there can help you separate a fake from the real thing.
The Final Word
The best way to avoid buying fake wines is almost always to purchase either directly from the producer or from a retailer that you know you can trust. We come back to our second point again of doing your research. You can find out a lot about those who sell wine by listening to what others have to say.
We have one final tip to leave you with. In modern times, the more popular the wine the more likely it is to be faked. After all, counterfeiters want to make the most amount of money reaching the widest audience.