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FAKE WINES IN CHINA – THE BEAT GOES ON

John Tilson • 11/12/12        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

For many years the Underground has been reporting on wine fraud. This began in the early 80s (to read that article click here).   Interestingly, in the early 80s I talked with the owners of Chateau Lafite Rothschild about the issue of wine fraud and they felt that it would not be a problem. At that time wine fraud was just beginning to get publicity and few joined us in our concern. Now that has changed. Producers, merchants, and consumers alike are very concerned. Wine fraud is a big problem. And, it is particularly a problem in China. But, don’t think that all the fake wine in China will stay in China. A short time ago we published an article on how fake wine is being moved out of China to other countries (to read that article click here).

 

Now we have another story dated November 9 from BBC World News that reports another large stash of what appears to be fake wine in China that potentially could be distributed around the world. That article is reproduced below:

 ‘Fine wine’ hoard highlights China’s problem with fakes

“Police in China have discovered 10,000 bottles labeled as one of the world’s most expensive wines in a deserted house.

If authentic the haul of Chateau Lafite Rothschild would be worth £10m ($16m), but police believe it is fake.

Chateau Lafite is very popular with China‘s new rich and 50,000 bottles are imported from the estate each year.

Police say it’s unlikely that a fifth of that total would have been stored in one deserted suburban villa.

The house is in the eastern city of Wenzhou, south of the financial hub, Shanghai.

It is reported to have had good security and to have been guarded by dogs.

Its owner, Mr. Zhou, told police he had been surprised to learn that his house, unoccupied for nine years, was being used to store wine. He has denied any involvement.

The authorities hope the discovery will hold clues to an underground workshop

Analysts say that 70% of bottles of Chateau Lafite sold in China are fakes. The estate has fought and won six lawsuits against Chinese companies over fine wines.”

 

Today, unlike the 80s, Chateau Lafite Rothschild and many others are taking wine fraud seriously. Consider the recent changes made by Lafite Rothschild to make wine fraud more difficult. Below is a news release from the Chateau earlier this year:

 Château Lafite Rothschild adopts the Prooftag System

“The Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) group has always endeavored to protect its brands and products. The fight against counterfeiting is an integral part of our development policy both in France and internationally.
We now wish to take this initiative further, with measures to strengthen our bottle authentication system.

From February 2012, Château Lafite Rothschild has introduced a “bubble seal” system, created by Prooftag, for all bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild and Carruades de Lafite labelled after February 2012. This seal will be present on all bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild from the 2009 vintage, and all bottles of Carruades de Lafite from the 2010 vintage. This initiative will also apply to bottles of earlier vintages released from the Château after February 2012. All bottles labeled in our cellars after February 2012 will therefore be equipped with the system, whatever the vintage concerned.

 The seal is applied to the bottle neck (at the back), partly on the capsule and partly on the glass. It provides two levels of protection:
– A unique « bubble code » that cannot be reproduced.
– A 13 character alphanumeric code that is associated with the bubble code

The combination of the bubble code and the alphanumeric code enables the authentication of the bottle and gives access to the information on the bottle, previously registered by the Château and stored in a database.

 

The authentication procedure is carried out directly on line. Click here to view the page. Once the alphanumeric code is entered, the corresponding bubble code is displayed. An identical bubble code to the one on the screen, combined with an undamaged seal that is attached to the bottle, is the guarantee of the bottle’s authenticity.

The objective is to guarantee traceability right through the distribution chain to the final consumer.”

These are the beginnings of the war against wine fraud. The perpetrators of fraud are very clever with deep pockets and the latest technologies at their finger tips. It will not be easy to arrest the tide of fraudulent bottles that is increasing at an alarming rate. Lafite Rothschild and others such as Laurent Ponsot of Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy are to be commended in their efforts to try to stop, or at least slow down, the incidence of wine fraud. Consumers must also be part of the solution. Any suspect bottles should immediately be reported to the source from which they came and to the producers and then, if necessary, to the authorities. The integrity of fine wine is at stake. Old wines are one of life’s greatest pleasures. None of us should stand still and allow a few profiteering crooks to spoil the game for everyone!

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson

 

 

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8 comments for “FAKE WINES IN CHINA – THE BEAT GOES ON”

  1. It turns out that these bottles were NOT Lafite, but Baron de Rothschild. As penalties in China may be proportionate to the value of the object being counterfeited, the copies have moved to lower-value wines, but still prominently displaying the Rothschild crest.

    Posted by Keith Wollenberg | November 13, 2012, 9:29 am
  2. Another terrific article on a topic that needs much exposure. The RFID/bubble code is an easy and not too costly fix. I recently interviewed Leonardo Raspini of Ornellaia. The winery has been inserting an RFID on the flagship brand for several years. They also buy Orenllaia online just to check on fraudulent activity. To date no “discoveries” of anything suspicious more than bad bottles probably a function of storage.

    Posted by Steven Stumpf | November 13, 2012, 11:15 am
  3. Thanks Steven. Yes this is something that every serious wine producer and consumer should be advocating. There’s not too much involved today relative to the cost of better protection and the cost of the wine. So it is a win/win for every one except the crooks!
    In Vino Veritas,
    John

    Posted by John Tilson | November 21, 2012, 4:15 pm
  4. Thanks Keith. I was not aware of this and was just following the information as contained in the article. But, I doubt that the counterfeiters have moved too far from the high end stuff. After all that is where the money is! But, better precautions such as those Lafite is now using will, at the very least, slow things down for the counterfeiters!
    In Vino Veritas,
    John

    Posted by John Tilson | November 21, 2012, 4:18 pm
  5. Great insightful post!On a reeltad point, I have always been amazed that in spite of the sheer volume of words that has been written about the Chinese market, practically none of it has been by an actual Chinese consumer.I wonder if it is possible to get a video crew, go to China and film precisely how wine is consumed. That would be really interesting

    Posted by Sylvie | November 22, 2015, 1:56 pm
  6. Hi Sylvie,
    I really don’t know about the internal workings of Chinese consumer markets. All I know that there are a lot of counterfeit wines out there and that consumers need to be very careful of provenance when buying wines. I’ll leave going to China to investigate up to someone else!
    In Vino Veritas,
    John

    Posted by John Tilson | December 8, 2015, 3:25 pm
  7. Hello John,

    Thank you for your interesting article on the protection of the Carraudes de lafite” wines.

    The article caught my eye as I am searching on behalf of one of our China clients for Carraudes de lafite” 2010 and 2012, on receiving their request I was immediately concerned what was real and what was fake.

    We are an Australian company exporting wines to China and elsewhere, from here we can insure the reliability of the product. But with such a high value wines it would be open to counterfeiting.
    Being so far away, would we be able to point me in the direction of a reliable supplier of non counterfeit Carraudes de lafite” 2010 and 2012.

    I hope this inquiry is of interest and I thank you again for you interesting article.

    Best wishes

    David Bliss

    Posted by david Bliss | June 1, 2016, 9:26 pm
  8. Hi David,
    I am glad you found the Underground. Thanks for the kind words and sorry for the late reply. I am afraid I do not know where to start in recommending a supplier of the wines to Australia. Perhaps the best approach would be to contact the Chateau directly.
    I believe that counterfeiting is a big problem and one that is not likely to go away anytime soon. So the only protection is to be extra careful and be exactly sure of the provenance of any high value wines before purchase.
    In Vino Veritas,
    John

    Posted by John Tilson | July 19, 2016, 2:18 pm

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