Chinese Buying Fake Lafites

And other odd observations from the Asia Sentinel


Asia Sentinel is reporting that some three million bottles of Lafite are being sold in China every year. Given that the annual production of Chateau lafite is somewhere in the range of 200,000 bottles, these sales figures for China seem breathtaking.

Fraud has always been a problem in the wine industry, but never on such a grand scale. The thirst for wine is well documented in China and with their nascent wine culture, it is not surprising to find them failing prey to the most unscrupulous members of the trade. It can be difficult to tell the self-aggrandizing blowhard from the truly nefarious. The end result though is much the same, consumers get duped.

As Sentinel reports:

"Can China drink more French Bordeaux than France is producing? Apparently so, if statistics for top Bordeaux consumption in China are correct – by a factor of 8 or 9.

The Shanghai Times reported one enterprising merchant is importing bulk reds through Hong Kong, then bottling them aboard a factory-ship into recycled and fake bottles from the Chateau Lafite Rothschild wine estate. CCTV, the national broadcaster, cited the case of a 5-star hotel in Dongguan, South China, moving 40,000 bottles of Lafite annually. The Chateau Lafite Rothschild annual allocation to the entire China market is only 50,000 bottles.

The scale of fakery appears to be breathtaking. Although the fabled French vintner produces about 200,000 bottles annually, China records some 3 million bottles sold every year, making 80-90 percent of Lafite fakes. Lafite sells for US$7,800 a bottle at some restaurants. Formal business entertainment is expected to serve Lafite as the dinner wine. Businessmen dare not disappoint their guests. Empty bottles of real Lafite trade at near US$450 a bottle to recyclers.

Like the European luxury handbag, watch and couture labels in China, serious punters have more confidence in purchasing the same brands in Hong Kong. "

Read the entire article here: Fake French Wine in China

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  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 8,106

    I saw a related article in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. The article starts out with the story of a dinner attended by "well-to-do Chinese businessmen at an exclusive private club" in Beijing. "The lamb chops were cooked to perfection. Fine wines flowed. Then came the piece de resistance: a 1997 Chateau Petrus Pomerol that can fetch about $2,000 a bottle." Apparently, one of the attendees was a wine consultant by the name of Frankie Zhao. (I'm sorry, but doesn't a name like "Frankie Zhao" sound more like an American hood than a wine consultant?) Zhao detected fraud on the first sip, but rather than embarrass his host friend, he kept silent.

    I had heard that counterfeit wines were popping up. Apparently, some of the big auction houses have passed along vintages of Burgundy that even the suppposed maker said they never produced.

    An interesting thing in the Times article is that a cottage industry of bottle scavengers has emerged. An on-line "professional bottle recycler" is offering up to $320 for an empty Lafitte bottle, depending on the vintage. When Christie's has a tasting in Hong Kong or China, they smash the empty bottles to keep them off the black market.

    Jan 17, 2012 at 3:39 PM

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