Protect yourself against counterfeit wine

Fake wine spottings are on the rise around the world, with the latest incident striking an area east of London in the UK. But a keen eye and a little sober investigation can save consumers from being duped under the table.

Wine lovers in a borough northeast of the city have been warned to beware of a scam involving counterfeit bottles of Jacob's Creek. Police seized 340 bottles of the fake Australian chardonnay from 19 retailers in the area last month.

Around the same time in mid-March, police in Toronto, Canada, launched an investigation into imitation bottles of a pricey 2006 Italian wine, Negar Amarone Classico, after several customers returned to their liquor stores demanding refunds for the substandard wine. Staff noticed that the labeling looked slightly different than legitimate versions.

Police in the UK also seized 11,400 liters of fake vodka this week after carrying out a raid on an illegal production and bottling plant in Worcestershire.

Counterfeit wine continues to be a problem exacerbated by enterprising criminals in China - one of the fastest growing wine markets in the world - who have been capitalizing on the increasing thirst for fine wines in their country.

The imitation Jacob's Creek was shipped from China, and misspelled the word 'Australia' by omitting the second letter 'A.' According to Decanter magazine, the owner of the winery launched an investigation after receiving a growing number of complaints from customers about the quality of the wine they had bought.

Last December, six people were detained and more than a dozen corporate accounts were frozen in that country after police seized 5,114 boxes of wine thought to be chemically altered and falsely labeled as superior products, reports People's Daily in China.

Like a piece of counterfeit art, imitation wine can be lucrative business. Last week, a judge tossed out a suit by billionaire wine collector and yachtsman William Koch who charged that auction house Christie's sold him several bottles of Bordeaux wine, claiming they had belonged to Thomas Jefferson knowing all along they were fake.

Experts say that the easiest and most obvious way to detect a counterfeit wine is to look for spelling mistakes on labels.

For serious wine drinkers, collector Russell Frye also created, a website that provides the latest news and information that includes a section on the most recent counterfeits reported. Limited subscription access is free, but fees for complete access range between $20 to $4,000 a year. According to Frye's 'anecdotal experience,' the top 10 counterfeit wines are (in no particular order):

Cheval Blanc 1921

Cheval Blanc 1947

Lafite 1787 Thomas Jefferson (single bottle format)

Lafite 1870

Lafleur 1947

Lafleur 1950

Latour a Pomerol 1961

Margaux 1900

Petrus 1921

Petrus 1947



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