Last week, in my article entitled “Exploring Fake Wine,” I talked about the fact that wines that are called fake wines aren’t actually fake. They are true-blue manufactured wined that are deceivingly dressed up to look like high quality wines. China takes this concept to a whole new level. So today’s focus is fake Chinese wine.
China’s participation in the wine industry is commendable and speaks to the Chinese people’s growing appreciation and desire for wine. Several regions like Shandong and Ningxia already grow competitive wines, and there are imports from all over the world to satisfy Chinese demand.
Yet, a counterfeit business booms in China. Mass-produced or low quality wines are being sold in re-used or copycat labeled bottles. Slight variations in spelling (e.g., “Lafitte” for Lafite) or just-barely-tweaked appellation names make the fake wines hard to spot.
Two other factors contribute to the fake Chinese wine business. First, because the technology needed to grow vines in China is just now becoming available, the Chinese people are relatively new to wine so don’t have a lot of knowledge about it. Second, the cultural tendency in China is to equate price with quality. The counterfeiters are taking advantage of this tendency, coupled with a new trend in China to give wine as gifts. The more exotic the label, the higher the price, the better the gift. A perfect storm.
The ones who suffer the most are the native Chinese, but the ripples have been felt as far away as France and Australia. One Australian wine maker was approached by a Chinese broker who asked him to produce several specific labels. The Australian willingly complied, only to find out later that he had basically counterfeited a fellow Australian wine maker’s labels.
This caused Australian organizations to look into more stringent label practices, such as confirming a label’s originality prior to printing. Some tasting rooms smash their empty bottles after tastings to prevent them from landing in the secondary counterfeit market.
The effort required to discover, prosecute and recover losses from counterfeiting takes away from wineries’ productive business efforts and all too often results in raised prices and a bad taste in one’s mouth.
Next week, I will make sure to cover a happier topic!