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Counterfeiting Wine in China on the Increase

Posted: Tuesday, 04 June 2013 14:30

Counterfeiting Wine in China on the Increase

June 04: Counterfeiting Lafite may be the most lucrative business for the con artists in China, but several popular Australian brands like Penfolds and Henschke have also been complaining about the duplicate products being sold increasingly in the Chinese market with copycat bottles impersonating the real thing, suggesting that the Indian decision makers must immediately take preemptive action to keep the potential menace away from India in the future

Taking advantage of the poor knowledge of English Language with the Chinese, Penfolds is being sold as ‘Panfaids’ which has been intentionally designed to look like the word 'Penfolds' in appearance. If one does not pay close attention, one would think of it as Penfolds. Apparently, the label description in this Panfaids also describes Penfolds’ winemaker, Max Schubert as the winemaker.

Pinghui Xiao, working on his PhD at the University of South Australia, recently spoke about the copycat products, in an interview with the ABC Radio in Australia, according to the report in foodmag.com. “I myself encountered a knock off case of what I call subtle counterfeiting in 2011. I found wine by the name of Panfaids sold in Guangzhou,” he said.

The prestige wine brands are ostensibly available in the Chinese market easily and can be copied with inferior ingredients to make an attractive profit margin. This of course would put the brand itself in question and encourage rumours and speculation surrounding safety standards.

According to him, an emerging domestic wine region in China was exposed for making counterfeit popular wine brands by using no grapes at all. Instead they added alcohol flavours into water to make ‘fake wine’ which caused the entire region to suffer heavily. This does bring to one’s mind the so-called ‘Goan ports’ in india which claim to use domestic eating grapes but in the absence of wine laws, are suspected of using flavours, molasses, colours, alcohol and potentially harmful substances.

Click For Large ViewIntellectually, property laws in China are quite soft which poses a massive concern for the reputation of established brands, many of which have been built up over decades, even centuries, says the report.

Xiao suggests that Australian producers should establish a wine brand ambassador in China to promote Aussie brands rigorously and keep a keen eye on the counterfeiting issues. He also suggests that Australian brands should be proactive in educating Chinese consumers on what characteristics to look for in Australian wine.

“The Chinese people are very recent wine drinkers. You have to plan your story, your thinking, your ideas to people there, and I do believe the earlier, the better for Australia to penetrate into that market.”

While the extent of forgery is not known precisely, it is substantial enough to be a matter of discussion at every international forum where the producers feel quite helpless. Every person who has a wine dealing in China, including journalists and importers, confirms the continued counterfeit and fake wine business though the government occasionally claims Click For Large Viewto crack down on the perpetrators. In India, the problem has not emerged though there are infrequent murmurs of an importer changing the labels on the older lots and some Indian producers using sub-standard materials.

This makes it imperative for the government to get into the act urgently, whether through the Indian Grape Processing Board or FSSAI ( Food Safety Standards and Safety in India). Apart from expediting implementation of the wine laws, it must ensure that the penalties for tinkering with the quality and specifications including the labels are severe. India is generally perceived as a country with a fair judicial system even though most times one could fault it with slow speed.

Subhash Arora

Tags: China, Penfolds, Panfaids, Max Schubert, Pinghui Xiao, Indian Grape Processing Board, FSSAI

       

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