Italian financial police were not looking for counterfeit wine when they visited a company in the province of Padua in 2016, but something about a bottle of Moët & Chandon caught their eye: There was no serial number on it.
The bottle was the first clue that led to an alleged counterfeiting ring, one that has been turning local sparkling wine into Champagne. According to a government report, officers of the Guardia di Finanza raided a building near the town of Selvazzano in December. They found 9,200 bottles of fake Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut inside, worth roughly $380,000 at retail. There were also labels for 40,000 more bottles—a potential $1.9 million worth—as well as a professional labeling machine.