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Imposter French Wine Bottlings on the Rise

There are ample warnings that more and more fake wines are in circulation, particularly of top Bordeaux wines, but the châteaux are reluctant to take legal action, stating it is not their problem.

Despite warnings that wine fakes are increasing, Bordeaux châteaux are reluctant to take legal action to protect their brands. It is impossible to estimate the number of fakes in circulation, but experts say there are more and more, with potential values of millions of euro/dollars.

U.S. wine critic Robert Parker has said he would “not be surprised if a lot of what’s in the cellars of big collectors turns out to be fakes.”

UK-based based Neal Martin, founder of, and recently employed by Parker, warns that faking is at an all time high. Expect a slew of claims to follow, he says, if the case taken by American collector, William Koch, against dealer Hardy Rodenstock proves bottles—sold as belonging originally to President Thomas Jefferson—are fake.

Asked what action they are taking, top Bordeaux châteaux point to new security measures, including secret codes engraved on bottles and watermarks on labels, but say fakes are not their problem.

“Fakes do not concern the châteaux,” says Francis Mayeur, director of Château d’Yquem, a first growth Bordeaux wine that has been a target for fakers.

A close up of the two bottles of Château Pétrus 1982 Magnum. The grapes on the left belong to the counterfeit bottle. Photo source: Antique Wine Company.

Fakes are “not our problem,” says Christophe Salin, director of Château Lafite, another first growth Bordeaux wine that has been faked.

Asked what châteaux should do, expert wine consultants Alex de Clouet and Gilles de Pontavice, both based in France, say systematic legal action must be taken. “But châteaux don’t like it. They fear the negative publicity will affect sales of real bottles,” says de Clouet.

Pontavice, who also runs a Web site providing advice on wines bought at auction, says he now receives two to three queries a week about fake wines.

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