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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More