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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid