Chinese wine consumption is at an all-time high, and Chinese wines are becoming more sophisticated (okay, relatively). Unfortunately, so are wine counterfeiting rings, who’ve evolved beyond churning out bootlegs with hilariously incorrect names on the label, and are now pulling counterfeit jobs that would put Frank Abagnale Jr. to shame, SMCP reports:
China’s case is a good illustration of the evolution of counterfeiting. Initially, criminals took advantage of the country’s twin weaknesses: consumers who were new to wine, and the fact they had the money to buy it for show.
That led to a flagrant production of fakes, whose labels simply piled on the names of as many famous vineyards and locales as possible.
But in the past two years, as more Chinese became connoisseurs, there has been an explosion in Asia of more refined counterfeits, says Mark Solomon, who co-founded truebottle.com.
……..For instance, counterfeiters buy up old, empty bottles from the best vineyards, so the wine would pass a test that sampled the bottle’s glass or inspected the label. A recent search on eBay showed several old, empty bottles were for sale, including a 1958 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, a 1928 Chateau Margaux and a 1971 Romanee Conti – all of which are some of the most counterfeited wines.
Anti-counterfeit measures are becoming equally or even more intricate in accordance:
Medina’s lab [lab run by French Finance Ministry in Bordeaux] runs a series of tests on bottles that come their way: measuring the isotopes of certain elements can determine which country a wine comes from, measuring the trace radioactivity in a bottle can broadly determine its age.
Wines that claim to have been bottled before the invention of the atom bomb, for instance, should have no cesium-137.
By contrast, bottles from the 1960s, when nuclear tests happened almost weekly, show a noticeable spike in cesium.
The lab also makes its own wines from grapes collected about every 50 kilometres across Western France. Each of the wines then serves as a reference point for a given year and micro-region. None of the tests is definitive, but, taken together, they can generally sniff out the fakes.
Yeah, basically wine counterfeiting has become more complicated than a Christopher Nolan plot, and more than sophisticated enough to dupe China’s wine drinking elite, who’s wine knowledge is fairly lacking (by their own admission).