The Measures and Systems that Protect You From Buying Counterfeit Italian Wine

For as long as there’s been an Italian wine industry, there have been counterfeiters. These parasites feed off the hard work of others by creating inferior products and then plastering them with the names of famous producers. In doing so, they taint the brands that these producers have worked so hard to create. These inferior counterfeited products can give consumers an unfair impression ofa wine’s quality.

That’s not all. Counterfeit wines are also dangerous. There are no controls in place when it comes to what the makers can put into these wines. That means when you drink a counterfeit wine, you have no idea what you’re really putting into your body. This stands in direct opposition to legitimate wines, which are tightly regulated to ensure they meet certain standards.

Counterfeiters can also cost investors a lot of money. A particular convincing counterfeit could dupe a wine investor into paying over the odds for a bottle that’s eventually revealed to be worthless once the deception unravels.

When you combine all of these issues, it’s not hard to see why the Italian wine industry, consumers, and investors all hate counterfeiting and want to see it stamped out.

The question you may have is simple.

What is the industry doing about it?

There are several measures and systems in place that aim to reduce the odds of you getting a counterfeit bottle of wine. Here are just a few of them.

The Blockchain

This is a very new development and, as such, it is one that has yet to see wide adoption in the wine investing sector. However, the blockchain holds the potential to practically eradicate fine wine forgery in the future.

Those with an interest in cryptocurrencies may already have an understanding of what the blockchain is. The most basic explanation is that it’s a digital ledger that keeps on ongoing record of all transactions made for a product. It’s used in cryptocurrency to keep track of trades and ensure there’s no piracy or illegal currency creation.

The blockchain is a decentralisedsystem that’s both transparent and extremely secure. Many argue that it’s impossible to forge transactions on the chain.

You can already see how this may benefit wine investors. Moving trading over to the blockchain via the use of digital wine thumbprints could make it extremely difficult for forgers to convince people with their counterfeits.

There are already some systems that use this technology, including the Chai Method. This collects 90 points of data on a wineto create its digital thumbprint. This is then recorded on the chain for use whenever a transaction involving that wine gets made. If somebody tries to switch the wine for a counterfeit, the digital thumbprint will reveal the deception. This means that the investor can avoid spending money on a bottle that’s not the genuine article.

As mentioned, this is still something of an emergingtechnology and it’s one that will likely take a few years to really penetrate into the industry. But we believe that it’s only a matter of time before the blockchain becomes a major part of wine investment.


For a more current solution to the counterfeiting issue, we can look at RFID tags. These arelittle electronic tags that are implanted into the wine, often in the glass or label. People can then use special readers to detect the presence of the tag and determine if the wine is genuine.

This is a decent solution to the issue in the present day. But it’s not without its problems. Technologies like these and Prooftags are only effective for as long as they work. A malfunction makes them useless. There are also instances where the tag has actually peeled off a bottle, which again makes it useless.

Finally, RFID is a physical technology. And that means that it’s as open to counterfeiting as the wines that it protects. With enough time, it’s possible that counterfeiters will be able to copy the tags that are meant to demonstrate the unique nature of a bottle of wine.

As such, RFID is a decent solution right now. But it’s also one that may run into problems in the future. Thankfully, it should serve as a suitable stop-gap before blockchain becomes more popular.

The Winery Tactics

Beyond all of this tech, there are a few things that wineries themselves do in an effort to fight against the fraudsters. Note that these techniques aren’t 100% reliable. But when combined, they can be enough to catch out a lot of counterfeiters who don’t know just how deep their forgeries need to go.

Among the tactics that wineries use are:

  • Proprietary paper blends that nobody else in the world uses. This lends their labels a uniqueness that’s very hard to copy. Of course, every type of paper has a formula behind it. If a counterfeiterdiscovers the formula, this technique doesn’t work. Still, it’s effective at stopping those that just want to forge a wine and make money off it as soon as possible.
  • Tagged inks that only a few scanners can detect the presence of. This is something that’s far more difficult to copy. However, its use relies on retailers and buyers having the scanners that allow them to check the ink.
  • Tamperproof seals that show physical evidence when a wine has been messed with. Refilling empty bottles is a common counterfeiting technique. Tamper-proofingprevents this from happening and is a pretty standard technique in the Italian wine industry.

The Final Word

As unfortunate as it is to admit, the Italian wine industry will likely always find itself in an ongoing battle against counterfeiters who want to make a quick buck off the hard work of others.

Still, the industry isn’t laying back and allowing these forgeries to happen. There are so many technologies in place now to prevent counterfeiting. And emerging technologies, such as the blockchain, have the potential to end the scourge of counterfeiting for good. 



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