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Spotting a Fake Wine: Everything You Need to Know

It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that there is a fake wine epidemic in Italy. However, it is certainly a problem, and one that has persisted for a number of years. Counterfeiters are always looking for ways to make more money, and they can do that by creating copies of successful wines and selling them onto people and vendors who are none the wiser.

Of course, this presents a huge problem to the Italian wine industry. For one, it takes money out of the pockets of the men and women who have worked so hard to create the original, and best, versions of these wines in the first place. People who buy a counterfeit wine based on the name attached to it also end up being duped. They get wines of inferior quality, despite paying as much as they would have paid for the real deal.

There’s also the issue of ingredients. Real Italian wines come with certification – IGT, DOC, or DOCG – that denote their quality and adherence to certain protocols. A counterfeit wine may carry a forged version of this certification, without using the correct ingredients. The grapes will be of a lower quality, plus some counterfeiters use synthetic chemicals that could even cause harm to the person consuming the wine.

So, how do you avoid this situation? The most important thing is that you know the warning signs of a fake wine. In this article, we’re going to look at a few of the things that you should look out for when buying a bottle of wine.

Check the Deal

A lot of collectors get duped with fake wines. They see a wine that would normally sell for a lot of money available at a low price, and they jump on it in the hope of bagging a bargain.

Unfortunately, that’s just what counterfeiters are looking for you to do. Your desire to add a prestige vintage to your collection may also be your undoing. Instead of completing the appropriate research to ensure you’re getting the wine at somewhere near its value, you end up rushing in the deal and paying less than you know you should.

Yes, on very rare occasions you may get a legitimate bottle of wine for less than you’d usually pay. However, more often than not, if a deal seems like it’s a little too sweet, the odds are high that your gut instinct is right. As a general rule, avoid any prestige vintage bottles that are being sold for less than they’re actually worth.

Check the Size of the Bottle

Counterfeiters may put a lot of effort into forging labels and the like, but they’re often a little skimpy on the finer details. Knowledge of these details can help you to avoid buying a counterfeit product.

Again, this is a great tip for people who are looking to buy prestige vintages. Always check the size of the bottle against its year. Research when the company behind the wine introduced the bottle size that you think you’re buying.

At times, you may find irregularities that tell you that the wine you’re buying is a counterfeit. For example, the company may not have introduced a certain bottle size until later on, which would mean any older vintages in that sized bottle must be fake. You can also use this technique for regular wines. If the bottle has a strange size or shape, you can compare it against the information you find out about the original.

Use a Blue Light on the Label

Your wines label is often the key to determining its authenticity, so examine it closely. The first thing you’re looking for is any inconsistencies in the information. For example, misspellings or incorrect placement of a company logo are common mistakes. You’ll need a version of the original label to compare it against, but you should be able to find a proper example online.

After that, you should go into more depth, especially when buying for a collection. Running a blue light over a label will often reveal its authenticity.

Remember that paper and adhesive composition has changed over the years. The techniques we use now are not the same as the techniques that were used many years ago. For example, a lot of modern paper has a fluorescent quality that you won’t find in old labels. If your blue light reveals this on an old label, you may be looking at a fake.

This isn’t something that you’re going to need to do when checking a regular bottle of wine. Checking the label closely is usually enough for that. Many counterfeiters, especially those from foreign countries, will not produce accurate labels.

Check the Cork

Did you know that producers use standard sizes for their corks? The size chosen may differ between producers, but each one will have a size got a vintage that you can examine.

Cork size is something that many counterfeiters don’t pick up on. They’ll focus on getting the label and bottle correct, but they’ll just pop any old cork into the bottle.

It’s not always practical to measure a cork. You may need an example of an original bottle, or knowledge of the actual cork size. However, you may find that measuring the cork can help you spot a fake, assuming you have those things.

Stop Drinking if it Tastes Odd

This final section is less of a tip and more of a warning. If the wine passes all of these tests above, but it tastes off to you when you drink it, stop immediately.

As mentioned, many counterfeiters add all sorts of chemicals to their fake wines in an effort to get them to taste something like the real thing. These can cause harm when consumed in high enough dosages.

You’ll have to trust your instincts on this one. If something just doesn’t taste quite right to you, then you either have a wine that has gone off, or you have a counterfeit in your glass. Either way, you should stop drinking immediately.

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