There are no degrees offered in academic courses devoted to the identification of counterfeit wine…

Because there are no such courses.

Counterfeit wine identification requires a vast knowledge of wine labels, cork brands, correct bottles and capsules, some forensic ability, and a background in science, especially physics.

Counterfeiting activities have existed for centuries, but fake wine has only recently been identified. By fake wine I don't mean the story of a Brit who once a year bought a case of Port, drank six bottles and refilled them, and reoffered the full case, although this actually occurred. I mean professional activities, intended to defraud, that created counterfeit wine in quantity, such as those bottles created by Rudy Kurniawan and Hardy Rodenstock. Now so many counterfeit bottles are out there that even many genuine bottles of Henri Jayer wines have been called counterfeits.

A counterfeit wine - at least in name - may be created when a heat-affected or otherwise compromised bottle or case is put back in the marketplace and offered as genuine. Sharp-eyed buyers should sort out most of those bottles, or at least they should, after assessing provenance, tasting some of the wine to be purchased, or noting damaged capsules or evidence of leaking. We can assess and detect these compromised bottles as part of the scope of our work.

The 'real' counterfeits - wrong bottles, corks, capsules, and labels, altered to represent something they're not - are serious prospects for analysis.

More than a decade ago we received this assignment: go in a 30,000-bottle wine cellar and find the fakes. Our report identified and illustrated 202 bottles that were either suspicious or clearly counterfeit. There were a huge number of genuine bottles in that collection and there is no better technique than comparing genuine and suspicious bottles side-by-side. The data collected in that assessment, together with similar data collected from colleagues in Asia and Europe plus our own substantial files built over more than a decade, have positioned us to be a key source of counterfeit wine information and to identify fakes around the globe.

Her is one example from our files: when looking at a 1900 Chateau Margaux with a Pillet-Will label that is suspicious, a bottle known to be genuine has a label that is 3-13/32" high, 4- 5/8" wide, corner cuts are 11/16", glossy paper, reflective gold ink, with an olive green bottle, deep inverted punt center, cork branded 1900 Margaux and Mis en Bouteilles au Chateau. Some labels are 1/32" different in size. Seven bottles examined have 1er Vin 1900 on the label. The eye of the left animal is distinct while a dark eye can be seen on the right animal. A magnum label is 4-3/8" by 6-1/16, says Grand Vin, has short 1-3/16" capsule, and has Mis en Bouteille diagonally across the face of the label. If you have concerns about the authenticity of wine bottles in your cellar or that of a friend or client, please call 203-856-8430. There is no charge for a preliminary consultation.

William H. Edgerton

William Edgerton is a wine appraiser and consultant with a 27-year history of providing wine valuations for divorce, estate, charitable contribution, storm damage, frozen, or excessively heated wine. (See

He has specialized in the identification of counterfeit bottles for collectors and wine auction firms for the past 15 years, and his conclusions have been used in several legal cases.

For precise results it is necessary to examine the questionable bottle in person, but a tentative conclusion may be able to be reached using high-resolution close-up photographs.

At Edgerton's suggestion, wine critic Robert Parker, Jr., tasted a dozen magnums Edgerton deemed counterfeit from external inspection, and reported his conclusions that all were counterfeit, in the September, 2011, issue of his publication, Wine Advocate.

If you have questions about the identification of possible counterfeit bottles or intend to purchase older vintages or expensive examples from any vintage, Mr. Edgerton can provide information that will allow you to protect yourself against acquiring fakes.

William H. Edgerton, Wine Appraiser and Consultant
PO Box 1007, Darien, CT 06820
Tel: 203-856-8430