The fake, the fraudulent and the lookalikes at Chengdu Wine Fair

People say everything is possible in China and some folks take this to heart, making the impossible, possible: conjuring up a suspiciously Petrus-like label and a commemorative wine from Château Cheval Blanc called ‘Clos du Cheval Blanc’. Both ‘unicorn’ wines are just a series of deliberately misleading to downright fraudulent wines we spotted at the Chengdu Wine Fair this week. 

The sign reads: ‘China’s only legitimate Lafite’.

The Chengdu Tangjiuhui (糖酒会) or formally known as the China Food, Wine & Spirits Trade Fair, is reputed to be the biggest trade fair for wines, spirits and beers in China. It’s indeed an important event on trade calendar for wineries to touch base with local distributors spread out across China.

Held in the capital city of China’s southwestern Sichuan province, the fair is actually split into two parts: taking place between 19-22 March and 23-25 March.

The first part is held throughout the city at various hotels with the two main ones being the Shangri-la and Kempinski, while the second part is convened at the Chengdu Century City New International Convention and Exhibition Center.

For a fair of this magnitude, you will be sure to see not only new wine releases but also plenty of fraudulent and outright counterfeit wines from what they call ‘DIY Penfolds’ to look-alike Bordeaux first growths.

Most of the suspicious wines we’ve spotted so far were seen in the Kempinski and a couple at the main Chengdu wine fair.

What’s particularly shocking about the fair is that these wines and their distributors are not exactly hiding from the spotlight. At the Kempinski, dbHK saw large posters of counterfeit wines or merchants carrying signs hawking doctored ‘Penfolds’ at the hotel entrance.

Here we’ve rounded up all the suspicious wines we’ve seen so far. Click through the slides to discover the wines.

9 Responses to “The fake, the fraudulent and the lookalikes at Chengdu Wine Fair”

  1. Whilst I agree that some of what you have reported are clearly deliberate attempts to mislead customers and misrepresent certain Chateaux’ hard earned reputations, I also hope that you will report how positive a Chinese wine fair of this size really is for the trade.
    The Chinese wine industry may still be considered relatively immature by some in the West but the genuine enthusiasm, creativity and innovation being demonstrated by an increasing number of companies/producers in the Chinese wine industry would actually put many of those in the West to shame. It is right that you point out these acts of fakery and imitation but it is also necessary to reflect on just how far the Chinese wine industry has come in such a short period of time.

    • Chris Thompson says:

      Great point Mark we should all respect how the Chinese wine market has evolved, matured and developed in recent years.

  2. Peter B says:

    On the Petrus, I mean Pacurs, bottle, note that the “Good Chateau & Oak Wine” statement looks remarkably similar to the old “Seagram Chateau & Estates” labeling. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

  3. Rafa says:

    Ethics aside, it happens that the Chinese legal system opted for the option that the one that is ‘first to file’ gets the register of a trademark. Which makes very recommendable to wineries thinking to sell here starting asap the procedures to obtain the trademark, protecting thus its brand. Notice in the example of slide 3 that the wine seller does not hide at all. If you visit its web page you can see on top the 葡萄酒 tab, or ‘Wines”. Hover the mouse, and see appear (1st option) wines of brand 拉菲. Check it out here, http://www.giantsail.com.cn/GrapeWine.aspx?type=1

  4. Carlos (no MW) says:

    How much they pay you, Mark Pygott?…. Remember my friend, is not about QUANTITY (China), is about QUALITY (West). I do not care If there are 30.000 Chinese trading companies dealing with wines. I was at the Kempinski Hotel and I was embarrassed by the amount of fake wine and beer I saw these days. Its like a brothel of alcohol.

    The Chengdu fair is lucky to organize a food pavilion and a Baijiu pavilion…

    • Carlos,
      It’s a shame that you don’t seem to think that people are allowed to express an opinion without accusing them of being ‘bought’. I make it quite clear that the trade in China is not perfect but for me the positives far outweigh the negatives. I can only hope that in the future you have an opportunity to appreciate the real excitement that exists in this region and that your view of China being inferior to the West will soften.
      Best

    • THE WINE TRUE says:

      Totally agree with Carlos, Kempinski is the BROTHEL of WINE what a exactly way to describe it! and I absolutely disagree with MARK because we should encourage the QUALITY over the LIE…BUT do not blame the traders and the dealers, blame the consumers who are so ignorant to accept this game…

  5. Helene Ponty says:

    While I agree that these are obvious fakes and should be a cause of concern, it is also worth pointing out that the Chengdu fair showed less of these examples than in previous years. Most of the distributors I talked to know very well that all the fakes are at the Kempinski hotel, and it is good to see other places like the Shangri-La where you can find many quality wines. I also think the finger should at least as much be pointed to the Europeans who agree to make those labels and sell those wines. These days most of these wines are not fakes made in China, just cheap VCE actually imported. So the blame is not entirely on the Chinese importers in my mind. Kempinski might be the brothel of wine but I’m not sure what that makes of Europeans willing to sell anything with any label on it.

  6. M.Q. Adams says:

    It would be interesting to have a tasting event on a regular basis to compare the fakes to the real wine brands – quality vs. prices; and then publicize the results to the Chinese wine consumers. It is one thing to understand that Chinese consumers want to “live the dream” by showing off knock-off products that are almost identical to the appearance of the real products. This is a way of life in China for fashion. It is an entirely different thing to compare the taste (quality) of the knock-off products to the real products (hopefully there is a difference). Once the consumers understand what the real products should taste like, perhaps they will realize how they are being ripped off. The problem is that for the average Chinese consumers, it is difficult to know whether the wine they are purchasing is real or fake. What should the real wine taste like??

    Yes, Chinese wine consumers have come a long way, from adding Coke to red wine (white wine requires adding Sprite or 7-up of course), adding herbal flavour enhancer sachets to the wine, chugging 1st growth Bordeaux, etc. Now it is time to make it déclassé to be seen to consume fake wine (and other products) in front of their peers. Social Risk-Reduction can be a powerful game-changer.

    Some western companies whose products are faked in China, find it very difficult to tell the difference until they take the suspect product back to the laboratory for tasting. For example, batteries that look very real; but only take ten photos before failing. Much of the counterfeiting expertise focuses on the packaging, which can be very realistic, and difficult to detect. So the real test is the quality test, not the visual test. This is important for products that you are going to ingest into your body. Consumers should be concerned – what else is in that bottle besides cheap wine. Think about what happened with fake baby’s milk and fake pet food in China.

    So, unfortunately, not only are the wine producers being cheated, but so also the emerging Chinese wine enthusiasts.

    Cheers!

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