The vast production of counterfeit wine may come as a surprise for some. It is estimated that Global food and beverage fraud is a $40 billion industry. It is also projected that 30,000 daily counterfeit bottles of imported wine in China are sold every hour, according to the Interprofessional Council of Bordeaux Wine.
The largest market at risk of purchasing counterfeit wine is wine collectors, who have seen expensive bottles such as Latour and Mouton-Rothschild being copied for decades. The primary source of creating fake wine is through the black market, where empty bottles from established brands are sold for as much as $1,000, then refilled and corked by a lesser quality wine, and sold for market price. Expensive wine is not the only target, however; more inexpensive wines are not immune to similar counterfeit practices. Because of that, more casual wine drinkers can fall victim to counterfeit wine purchases as well. Wine consumption is becoming more popular over the years, in fact, more millennials are choosing to drink wine over beer, and at a higher rate than their parents in the U.S. Given the ongoing, and growing, issue of counterfeit wine, wine creators are seeking solutions to help consumers to better track the authenticity of their wine.
Frank Cornelissen, who grows 24 hectares of vineyard for his wine, Cornelissen natural Sicilian wines, has decided to fight back against the black market through the use of his wine labels. In addition to the branding, the wine labels also feature RFID/NFC technology which can quickly be scanned by consumers using their smartphone.
Utilizing a wine label to help against counterfeit sales is not a new concept. Labels have played a vital role in helping to distinguish authentic from a fake wine, which can also be seen in Italy’s array of labels for their DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wine. The labels on these wine are similar to currency, they include watermarks, holograms and unique numbers that can be verified online. Cornelissen natural Sicilian wines are not the only wine sellers to utilize the advancement of technology to halt counterfeits. Tenuta San Guido, an Italian wine producer, has experimented with taking cautionary steps by embedding their bottles with microchips and printing unique codes on each label. This experimentation with added security was spurred on after their 1994 vintage Sassicaia wines were being duplicated by 12 people, who eventually were arrested for creating 20,000 counterfeit bottles.
With the advancement and ease of use of scannable security technology like HP Link, and of course also the growth in RFID popularity and availability, the evolution to use assets like these seems like the next logical step to help prevent counterfeits from taking place. Using scannable tech like Link or QR codes is not necessarily new for some wine brands, as many wineries already utilize these tools to convey information about the wine, such as weather reports, customer feedback and more. Liquor stores across the country, set by provincial boards such as AGLC and Ontario’s LCBO, have utilized QR codes for nearly a decade for consumer engagement, education and other various reasons.
Wine labels play an essential dual-role in both branding and security to verify authenticity. For purchasers who buy their wine at the local store, branding, design, colours and typography can play a significant role in their decision. Some store employees have also noted that despite their recommendation of taste, consumers may opt out of purchasing their recommendation simply because of the wine label.
Whether it is through security, branding, or both, there is no doubt that wineries can be greatly impacted by the decisions they make while designing their wine labels.