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Wine Makers Wise Up on Fakes

An FBI agent recently showed Arnaud de Laforcade a file with several labels supposedly from 1947 bottles of Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of France’s finest wines. To the CFO of Saint-Emilion vineyard, they were clearly fakes — too new looking, not on the right kind of paper.

But customers may be duped.

Regardless of the counterfeiter’s skill, he had ambition: 1947 is widely considered an exceptionally good year, and Cheval Blanc’s production that year has been called the greatest Bordeaux ever. The current average price paid for a bottle at auction is about $11,500, according to truebottle.com, which tracks auctions and helps consumers spot fakes.

Counterfeiting has likely dogged wine as long as it has been produced. In the 18th century, King Louis XV ordered the makers of Cotes du Rhone to brand their barrels with “CDR” before export to prevent fraud.

But counterfeiters are getting more sophisticated and more ambitious, particularly as bottle prices rise due to huge demand in new markets, mainly in Asia.

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