Counterfeit Wine on sale in the UK

06 May 2011

Reports from the internet including a press release on the Jacob’s Creek wine website on 29 March 2011 indicate that counterfeit Jacob’s Creek wine has been on sale in the UK.   This followed a customer complaint to Pernod Ricard, the owners of the Jacob’s Creek brand that the wine was of low quality and had a substandard taste.  Tests have indicated that the wine is not harmful to health if consumed.

The wine has been reported on sale in different boroughs of London, Reading, West Berkshire and Wokingham, Cardiff and Brighton, with investigations being carried out in each of these areas by trading standards officers.

The counterfeit bottles are being retailed at around the same price as genuine Jacob's Creek.  Apart from a spelling mistake in the small print they look very similar to the real product. The only difference is on the rear label the 'WINE OF AUSTRALIA' text is missing an 'A' in Australia and instead reads 'WINE OF AUSTRLIA'.

Trade in fake alcohol is not new in the UK; trading standards found 91 shops selling illegal alcohol at the end of 2010 in the south-east of England.   The four-month inquiry was carried out in co-operation with HM Revenue and Customs.

In this earlier investigation, Surrey County Council reported that 26% of 347 shops tested in 19 local authority areas were selling fake products containing alcohol on which duty had not been paid.  The council reported that trading standards had begun prosecution proceedings against all shops and off-licences found selling counterfeit alcohol in the area.

The UK now has the highest duty on wine in Europe.  In March 2011 it went up by 7.2% from £1.69 to £1.81 per bottle, and is set to increase by 2% above inflation each year until 2015.  Duty is charged upfront by HMRC when wine is taken out of customs.  If the counterfeit bottles of Jacob’s Creek are being offered for sale by wholesalers at under £2 per bottle, as reported, it seems unlikely that the duty has been paid.