Counterfeit Italian wine: an online (and sometimes hilarious) resource for exposing fraud

Above: bottles of allegedly counterfeit Amarone discovered recently in China. Image via the You Said Wine? Facebook.

You Said Wine?, an anonymously authored Facebook page devoted to exposing counterfeit Italian wine, came to my attention last week via the popular Italian wine blog Intravino.

In a post titled “The Amarone Affair in China: A ‘double-faced’ label was all we needed,” the writer — UniSG professor of wine industry policy and law, Michele Fino — reports on twice-labeled bottles of quote-unquote 1997 Amarone from the (Igino) Accordini winery in Valpolicella.

When she/he tore away the outer label, a user in China evidently discovered another label underneath. In his post, Fino details the seemingly endless clues that reveal the wine’s purportedly fraudulent nature. According to the winemaker, Bruno Accordini, who explains the curious case in a YouTube video, the unusual double label is owed possibly to a technical error in the cellar.

Fino ain’t buying it — literally or figuratively.

This episode, he writes, casts “doubt that the [appellation] system is capable of adequating guaranteeing the results that we expect from monitoring… In a crucial market like that in China, the damage to the perception of Verona’s most famous wine, not to mention Italian wine in general, raises the question.”

Above: counterfeit labels may offer clues to their clues to their dubious provenance, like this one, which riffs on one of Chianti Classico’s most respected estates.

As I followed Fino’s breadcrumbs, I ultimately landed on the You Said Wine? page and found myself mesmerized by the tide of material collected by the author.

Many of them relate to erroneous entries on humdrum wine lists, often with comical results. But some also delve into “invisible to the untrained eye” examples of illicit winemaking practices, like a Friulian white wine labeled ostensibly as an organically farmed product with no additives. As reported on the label, its egregiously excessive level of volatile acidity, writes the anonymous author, would lead to “a seizure of the product, a fine, a trial, and up to 6 months” behind bars.

Another topic broadly covered is what Italian authorities call “Italian sounding” names: labeling that deceives consumers by subtly sounding like Italian. My favorite — or should I say, the most terrifying — is Perisecco.

You said wine? I highly recommend it to you…

3 thoughts on “Counterfeit Italian wine: an online (and sometimes hilarious) resource for exposing fraud

  1. Pingback: Wine Blog Daily Tuesday 2//6/18 | Edible Arts

  2. Jeremy,
    Are you sure that Rampolla label is a counterfeit? At this moment, I don’t have a bottle in front of me and my memory might be playing tricks on me. However, I do recall seeing that label at the estate in November and finding ‘Light Agriculture’ an odd translation of ‘Agricoltura Naturale’. But the logic of the estate was that as part of Natural Agriculture, they have replaced traditional, heavy tractors with light, Geier Tractors and Quads. Indeed a smart move. (I eliminated my traditional, heavy “cingolato” at Cerbaiona for similar reasons.) I believe the site you referred to was referring and questioning to what in the world ‘Light Agriculture’ might refer.
    P.S. The 1,75 g/l VA is indeed an interesting one. . .
    A presto,
    Matthew

    • Matthew, thanks for pointing that out and thanks for being here (it’s so great when you share your insights here). I’m sure you are right. I love Rampolla and just awesome it was a phony label because of the odd rendering of “naturale” to “light.” You Said Wine?, as you pointed out, often gathers oddities like this (even when it’s not a phony). Thanks man and hope to see you soon!

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