What do we know about Wine Frauds and how do you spot it?
As sad as it is for us wine-lovers, wine can be adulterated.
This is not a new thing. Most of the recent wine frauds are actually concerning the black market where cheap wines are relabeled and sold for a much higher price.
However, until, approximately 50 years ago, it was common practice to cut some wines lacking in structure with others that had a deeper body and colour to strengthen them.
And if nowadays, the development of modern production techniques both in the vineyard and in the cellar, has statistically diminished these cases, other wine falsification operations are still in use, occasionally. These involve the addition of water to dilute wines (especially those with a too high alcohol content) and the blending with cheaper products to improve wine characteristics.
Although the use of these cheating techniques is illegal and punishable by the law, frauds are not totally uncommon.
In Italy, in the 80’s, the use of hazardous methyl alcohol, to increase alcohol level, caused the death of around 20 people. In 2008, the Italian wine business was shaken again by the “Brunellopoli scandal”, as some wines were found to contain in the blend grape varieties not allowed by the law (Brunello should be 100% Sangiovese).
Recent reports by investigative French organizations revealed that the irregularities and frauds still affect thousands of hectoliters of French wine, sold with non-compliant, deceptive or even false labels: foreign wine made to perceive as a French product to the consumer.
It needs to be said, though, that some manipulation is allowed in wine production so, for example, the sugaring of wine is permitted in the EU (with the exception of some southern Mediterranean areas). In the US, the addition of water to the must is allowed to reduce the percentage of sugars. In Australia and New Zealand it is possible to mix red and white wines, to obtain rosé wines.
Unfortunately the problem is, above all, the grey area that the local legislation leaves between what it is allowed or forbidden, which can permit some unscrupulous producers to play with it.
How to detect fake wines?
First I always suggest to buy your wines through reliable vendors that are updated on frauds and can address your doubts or even have internal quality controlling bodies (as some supermarket chains do). And if you are buying a very expensive bottle, it is worth asking for their invoice to trace the bottle provenance.
Check the label, if you see anything wrong or unusual in the label or the capsule, ask to the shop assistant or the sommelier.
Then, use your taste. If you feel something is wrong with your wine, if it gives you headache after a couple of glasses, there may be something not completely correct. If you don’t feel confident enough to evaluate it, ask the sommelier.
Finally, don’t get scared, wine frauds unfortunately exist, but they concern a very small part of the global wine market. The aim of our post is to make you a more conscious and informed wine drinker but most wine producers are ethic and passionate about their wines and most countries have teams of trained professionals responsible to ensure safety and transparency.
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So keep your eyes open but enjoy your glass of wine! Cheers!