China awash with counterfeit vintage wine

on 10/08/11 at 12:59 pm

Wine

Long known for its fake designer handbags and watches, China is now battling a flood of counterfeit vintage wine amid a growing zest for bottles from famed wineries as a sign of social standing.

With average consumption just one litre per person per year, China may not have an age-old wine tradition, but it is catching up fast and is expected to become the world’s sixth largest wine consumer by 2014.

“A good wine shows that a person has a high social status,” explains Wang Li, who is taking wine tasting lessons in Beijing.

“A famous brand and a high price are two important elements for choosing wine here,” he said. Colour is also a factor — among China’s wine-drinking classes, whites are looked down on as drinks only for women.

Wine from France is considered top notch. Last year, China and Hong Kong became the largest consumers of Bordeaux wines, while Chinese investors have bought several wineries in the area over the past three years.

Many rich Chinese are willing to dish out as much as 50,000 yuan ($7,800) for a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982, from the Bordeaux winery of the same name, which is hugely popular in China.

Counterfeiters have jumped onto this lucrative market and French wine has become one of the main victims of China’s growing love for a tipple.

Fakes are “everywhere — from bottom- to top-of-the-range,” said Romain Vandevoorde, head of wine importer Le Baron.

“There is more Lafite 82 in China than was produced in France. So you really have to be wary if you find any of that in China,” he told AFP.

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