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Counterfeit bottles put a dint in China’s lust for LafiteAFP Relax08 February 2012The international wine industry is casting a nervous eye towards China following reports that the country’s love affair with the finest vintages might be going through somewhat of a rocky patch.Prices for Chateau Lafite Rothschild fell 45 percent over the course of 2011 in Hong Kong, from HK$172,189 (17,000 euros) for a 12-bottle case of 2008 vintage to HK$100,000 (9,785 euros), while in China one bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 2008 is now setting wine lovers back around 9,500 yuan (1,152 euros), down from the 15,000 yuan (1,819 euros) being paid in in 2009.Demand for the wine dropped 4.6 percent in December alone, after it had fallen to similar levels over the entire last half of 2011.And while that sounds as though it might actually be good news for consumers –- and for those who quite fancy stashing away a few cases and waiting until prices might rise again -– the general consensus is that the drop in demand is a direct result of the rise of counterfeit wines in China.Chateau Lafite’s own website -- http://www.lafite.com –- claims the vineyard produces on average between 15,000 and 20,000 cases each year. But in China there have been claims that some three million bottles –- or 250,000 cases -– are being drunk annually.So something just doesn’t seem right.“The amount of Lafite drunk on the mainland is enormous, way in excess of real Lafite in the whole world,” Guo Qingfeng, general manager of wine importer Xiamen Gulong Foods, told the Souith China Morning Post newspaper. “Most of it has to be fake, and nobody knows how to tell the real from the fake.”Bad news perhaps for Chateau Lafite itself but not so tragic for the industry as a whole as figures reveal more and more Chinese drink and buy wine.The importance of the Asian market to the wine world has risen significantly over the past decade, spurred on by a rising lust for the liquid in China and by the fact Hong Kong has established itself as the center of the fine wine world after abolishing all duties on wine in 2008.Attention will be focused squarely on Hong Kong in May when the city plays host to the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific (http://www.vinexpo.com) trade event, the largest of its kind and one that now switches between its traditional home in Bordeaux, France and Hong Kong.And organizers of the event last month revealed that China had now overcome Britain as the world’s fifth largest wine consumer, behind the United States.Wine lovers in the US worked their way through the equivalent of 3.7 billion bottles of wine in 2011, while in China (including Hong Kong) the effort amounted to 1.9 billion bottles, according to the Vinexpo and International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR).Meanwhile, it’s not just counterfeit wine that’s eroding consumer confidence in luxury products that are supposedly made in France.Copycat oysters were also being pawned off in Hong Kong and Beijing as Gillardeau oysters, a luxury brand produced by a small, centuries-old, family-owned company in Bourcefranc-le-Chapus on the west coast of France.According to a report in the French newspaper Le Figaro last year, the company was notified by several of its Asian buyers that counterfeit — and lesser quality — oysters were being sold under its logo and brand.
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