News / Asia

    Fake European Wines Cause for Concern in China

    Police officers check bottles of confiscated fake wines before destroying them in Xi'an, Shaanxi province Jan. 4, 2012.
    Police officers check bottles of confiscated fake wines before destroying them in Xi'an, Shaanxi province Jan. 4, 2012.
    Reuters
    Bruno Paumard, the cellar master at a vineyard in China, can't stop laughing while describing a bottle of supposedly French wine a friend gave him two years ago.

    It's white wine, with a label proclaiming it is from the vineyards of Romanee-Conti, the bottle bearing the logo that is on bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, and declares its origin as Montpellier in southern France.

    Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, better known for highly prized and highly priced vintages from France's Burgundy region, makes only a tiny amount of white wine, labelled Montrachet. It has nothing to do with the equally prestigious Lafite, which is from the Bordeaux region, and neither brand is produced anywhere near Montpellier.

    "It's the most magnificent example of a hijacked brand of wine I've ever seen," says Paumard, who works with Chateau Hansen in China's Inner Mongolia. "It doesn't get better than that."

    Liquor stores, restaurants and supermarkets in China, the world's most populous nation and fifth-largest wine consumer, wage a constant battle against fake wines. The amount of knock-offs on the market may increase as Beijing investigates wine imports from the European Union, threatening anti-dumping tariffs or import curbs.

    It announced the investigation after the EU slapped anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels.

    "More expensive wine is okay, I just don't want any fakes," said Helen Nie, a Beijing housewife sharing a bottle of the Italian house white at a restaurant with a friend. "If the cost goes up I'd still buy wine, though some people wouldn't - the price makes a difference. But the quality is important; it's a health question."

    EU wine exports to China reached 257.3 million liters in 2012 for a value of nearly $1 billion, more than a ten-fold increase since 2006 as rapidly increasing wealth transformed lives and tastes in the world's fastest growing major economy. More than half of the 2012 total - 139.5 million liters - came from France.

    Nobody knows how much of the market is cornered by fakes and copycats, says Jim Boyce, who follows China's wine industry on his blog, grapewallofchina.com.

    "Things that are faked tend to be things that are very popular," Boyce said.

    And wine, especially expensive wine, is popular in China, sometimes more for bragging rights than taste.

    "Those expensive wines are where you see more fakes," said Maggie Wang, who was sharing the house wine from Sardinia at the Beijing restaurant with Nie. "But there's lots of phony wine. Everything's faked in China," she said. "For a lot of Chinese consumers, the more expensive it is, the more they'll buy it. Chinese like things like that - they'll buy the most expensive house, drive the most expensive car. They don't want the best, they want the most expensive."

    Chateau What?

    Given the high margins and the demand, the counterfeiters tend to focus on European fine wines.

    The iconic Chateau Lafite has become the poster child for wine forgery. A bottle of Lafite from 1982, considered one of the greatest vintages of the 20th century, can cost upwards of $10,000.

    That has led to a thriving industry in Lafite knockoffs in China. Aficionados say there is are more cases of 1982 Lafite in China than were actually produced by the chateau that year.

    Christophe Salin, president of Domaines Barons de Rothschild, which owns Lafite-Rothschild, says fake Lafite however isn't the major problem. "I have never seen a bottle of fake '82 Lafite," says Salin,who has been traveling to China for 20 years. "The problem we have is the creative attitude of some Chinese. They sometimes use our name in funny ways," he told Reuters in a telephone call from Paris.

    Several wines on the market are branded with names close to Chateau Lafite, including "Chatelet Lafite". Chatelet is the name of one of the busiest subway stations in Paris.

    Lafite "is such a generic brand in China that it has widespread appeal as a name and as a status symbol," says Boyce.

    The mystique extends beyond the wine - in Beijing there is a "La Fite British Exotic Bar" and the "Beijing Lafitte Chateau Hotel."

    The first step for anyone counterfeiting wine is to find or manufacture a bottle that is close to the original.

    "People will also use real bottles with something else inside, or make labels that are spelled differently," says Cheng Qianrui, wine editor for the Chinese lifestyle website Daily Vitamin. "If you know wines, you can tell, but not a lot of Chinese do."

    Last year's 10 percent surge in wine imports over 2011 was led by Spain, which accounted for 36 percent of cheaper bulk wine imports to China in 2012, according to Chinese customs figures. Bulk wine accounted for just under half of all wine imports last year.

    The copyright problems however tend to focus on the better-known marques.

    Importer Torres Wines includes Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, another top-ranked Bordeaux, in its portfolio. Sales Director Sun Yu says phony wine brands such as "Mouton & Sons" or "Edouard Mouton" pop up in the Chinese market.

    "It happens in secondary or third-tier cities where they don't have much wine knowledge," Sun says.

    Smashing Bottles

    Elite wine makers are trying to fight back, sometimes by smashing bottles after tastings, to prevent their being refilled for resale.

    Anti-counterfeiting measures by major international spirits brands, which also fall victim to fakes in China, include bottle buyback programs, tamper-proof caps and covert tagging of bottles. But such measures are less common with wine brands, according to an executive at an international beverage company in China.

    Domaines Barons de Rothschild has been putting tamper-proof tags on bottles of Chateau Lafite and its second label, Les Carruades de Lafite, since the 2009 vintage.

    But the producer has been protecting its elite bottles since 1996, company president Salin says, with four other identification techniques that he won't reveal.

    "If you show me a bottle of Lafite, I can instantly tell you when it was bottled, a lot of things," he says. "To counterfeit it is not easy."

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: jonusvorhees from: toronto, ontario, canada
    June 11, 2013 11:19 AM
    yep thats just white ppl, faking everything throughout history, never satisfied, always wanting more and more of everything, obsessed with materialism, forgotten their Lord Allah (SWT)...well all that will change Insha'Allah Ta'ala, the governments, wealth, superpowers, even the chinese and all who are in competition with them, they're all going to hell by the Will Of God...oh by the way when I used to drink, being a favourite wine drinker, from experience: there's no better wine in the World than PORTUGUESE WINE...PERIOD!

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    June 10, 2013 3:54 PM
    The Chinese wine drinkers of foreign wines have the taste of their own making, namely brand name foreign wines. Chinese make money by infringing on the patents and brand names of every foreign country and exporting to other countries. They grow faking all the foreign brand names including the foreign wines. Forgery in China is not a one way traffic. Now they are tasting the spoils of their own making, spurious wines with foreign labels!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora