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Wine Talk

Snooth User: Charles Emilio

Chinese counterfeit 400,000 bottles of Fitou wine

Posted by Charles Emilio, Feb 11, 2010.

http://www.wijnidee.com/en/2010/02/11/chinezen-vervalsen-400-000-flessen-fitou-wijn/



400,000 bottles of counterfeit Fitou wine circulate on the Chinese market. The bottles probably contain Chinese “wine”. The counterfeiters have copied the label and the bottle of the cooperative Mont Tauch, one of the major companies in the wine appellation of Fitou. Both are internationally registered. The counterfeit wine was discovered by the representative of Mont Tauch on the Chinese market, Wang Yu. Jean-Marc Astruc, president of the Syndicat du Cru Fitou, is heart stricken. “They copy what is successful,” he says in the southern French newspaper La Depeche. “The Sud de France brand is very popular in China.” The counterfeit bottles are sold for a much lower price than the real stuff. Fraud threatens the export of Fitou and southern French wines in general to China. It is impossible to compete with the lower prices of the fraudulent wine. Moreover, the image of Fitou is affected by wines of inferior quality. Mont Tauch does not know how to react. “It is very difficult to work in China,” said a representative of the cooperative wine company. “We are collecting our arguments.” The syndicate of Fitou will appeal to the responsible minister and hopes he can stop the counterfeiting. The wines of Mont Tauch have a good reputation. “They are affordable, well made, modern, and have a sense of place about them,” says the British wine critic Jamie Goode on his blog.

Dios Mio!

Replies

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Reply by gregt, Feb 11, 2010.

What is the incentive for the Chinese government to do anything, no matter how much Fitou complains? I'd expect a great deal more fake wine to show up worldwide.

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Reply by zufrieden, Feb 11, 2010.

At least they don't think their own product from the Shantung Peninsula (say Great Wall Cabernet) is worth counterfeiting ... yet. When Hong Kong was still a British colony and I had the time to travel around more, I spent some time looking through the street kiosks and talking to various street hawkers and found that I could obtain virtually any Western recording in pirated form. The same was true of watches and other products. So expect more counterfeiting as the demand for name brands grows alongside the expansion of the Chinese middle class.

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Reply by amour, Feb 12, 2010.

This will continue.

Mark you, in both mainland China and on Taiwan,
this has been going on for a long time as
regards other goods.

Now it is WINE.
As I mentioned before, fake Icewines are flooding the Chinese market
at $15. per bottle.

When I travelled out there a lot in the 1980's,

I saw fake computers....an entire car park of them was mowed
down in an attempt by the Taiwanese government to stop the making of fakes.
This is problematic and it will continue once there are buyers!

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Reply by gregt, Feb 12, 2010.

Not only Hong Kong. Come up to 14th Street in NYC. Same thing.

Just read an article in Business Week about the department store sales in China. Apparently they're doing really well because the customers trust them to have a higher percentage of legit products as opposed to counterfeit.

When they're making wine as good as the Fitou, then counterfeiting will be a problem that the authorities care about. Until that time, Chinese firms aren't going to be hurt, so there's nothing that's likely to happen.

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 12, 2010.

If you take out the act of copying a specific brand, on a macro scale, this is no different from California wineries marketing Burgundy and Chablis wines. These are successful touchstones that the marketplace is looking for.

It took more than 35 years for this American flattery to even be addressed, much less phased out. Ironically, the shoe is now on the other foot with Napa/Sonoma joining forces with European wine regions to protect its good name from being abused.

Also - having worked with them in the past, the wines of Caves de Mont Tauch are extremely good for the price. They are one of the very best French co-ops outside of Alsace (where all the really excellent co-ops are).

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Reply by gregt, Feb 12, 2010.

Except the key is that is is in fact copying a specific brand.

There's a long history of proper names and brand names becoming generic in the US - aluminum, jello, and kleenex for example, are essentially past saving, partly because there was no name for the product when they came out. Xerox is going to get there and I wouldn't be surprised if "google" as a verb, becomes the term for searching on the web.

The good folks who made "Pink Chablis" weren't trying to pass it off as something from Burgundy. They didn't copy the label, etc., and frankly, I'm not 100% certain that they even knew they were doing anything all that wrong, since in the 1950s I don't think sales of Chablis in the US were too high or that anyone knew what it was. Chablis was for all purposes, just a dry wine. Besides, it came in screw caps.

Port has pretty much lost the battle at this point as it's become a generic descriptor. Chablis almost went that way but I think that danger is passed now. When I have time I'm going to do a little legal research and try to find out if anyone ever brought an action against Gallo for those names back in the 60s and 50s.

But even if there's a bit of truth there, the difference is that the acts were taken by individuals, they weren't sanctioned by government policy.

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 12, 2010.

RBoulanger, happy to see you back these days after a lengthy hiatus.

I don't think the comparison is an apt one. Nobody in California was trying to pass their wines off as French back then, unfortunate naming choices aside. People were trying to get their California wine sold, and trying to learn how to make better wine, so they were choosing regional names (and that often the producers or their ancestors hailed from) that consumers might recognize, and taking similar approaches to wine making. But the labels weren't photocopied or otherwise counterfeited, nor other aspects of the presentation mimicked to make the consumer think they actually were getting French or Italian bottles of wine from famous producers in the old country.

The problem is extraordinarily endemic across a wide range of Chinese cultural, business and social practices. Copyrights and patents (and military^secret security) have tended to be viewed as mere speedbumps to be avoided as people and organizations acquire knowledge, products and economic leverage they feel they are 'naturally' entitled to. And this will continue until they in turn have something to lose to others trying to do the same to them. Taiwan has responded differently in recent years, and hopefully the mainland will at some point down the line, though that's still a long ways off.

It's interesting that Japan was always, though historically no land of vestal virgins, always quite a bit better on this subject. Certain aspects of what we call morality have always been dealt with more 'practically' in China. Not having the equivalent of Greek and Roman thought as well as Judeo-Christian traditions in their history, Chinese are not going to automatically predilect towards doing what European, and what used to be called the 'Anglo-Saxon' nations, want to think is the 'right thing', in business or other areas of behavior. And wine is a fairly easy example with wide-open scope for counterfeit operations. Hey, if people want to spend ridiculous amounts of money for something they can't even test until they've actually bought it and taken it home, then why shouldn't groups of Chinese, whether ad hoc government sanctioned or Triad run, giggle all the way to the bank? :-) How do you say 'caveat emptor' in Beijinhua?

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Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 12, 2010.

I think I'm caught here trying to make half an analogy.

Obviously copying a specific brand is very different to what the Americans and Australians did 50 years ago, but in terms of the response, I meant that it would probably take at least a generation for this kind of copying other nations regions activity to be considering improper in China. dmcker's insights make it seem like it might never happen!

(As an aside Greg not sure what you mean by aluminum - its a chemical element. Maybe Reynolds wrap?)

Of course the American Chablis producers weren't trying to pretend it was imitation white Burgundy. Moreover, they weren't doing anything wrong or illegal in the US.

But they wouldn't have called their wine Chablis if it didn't already mean something to American consumers! After a while consumers were no longer aware that Chablis is a geographic indicator when applied to European wines and a stylistic one when applied to domestic wines. However, attitudes have changed (markets have changed too - these wines are no longer particularly important marketwise) and the use of the so-called semi generic terms (Chablis, Champagne, Port, etc) have been increasingly regulated during the last few decades. This culminated in 2006 with the prohibition on using these terms outside of existing brands which were grandfathered in. With regards to beverage alcohol, currently Vermouth and Sake are the only geographical terms considered generic - they can be used in the US without restriction.

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Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Feb 13, 2010.

Who knows, maybe that is a good thing for them. It is sort of like free advertising. I am a big Fitou fan and have visited there. Frankly, it is not that well known outside of france. I assume, if it was copied, it was to get a higher price at the table, as an import wine than the local wine and they assume that it was less risky than copying say, Chateau Margaux. In the end maybe Fitou will get a name for itself as if it was a promotion. I have spent a lot of time in China and always am drinking the local wines, because it is good enough to go with the Chinese foods. Maybe Fitou will become very popular now and they will see a big boom in China sales.

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Reply by zufrieden, Feb 13, 2010.

Some of those traditionally Carignan-based wines from the Midi are probably well-mated with certain (non-fiery, non-Szechuan) Chinese cuisine. But don't count Chinese counterfeiters out when it comes to faux-Margaux. As long as the demand is there without the wherewithal to know the difference between the authentic and the fake, there will be attempts to counterfeit even the best wines of Europe. Remember: assuming you are taken in by the label, you then have to OPEN the wine to assess authenticity. And if it is a 2005 Chateau Margaux, when are you likely to drink it, pray?

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 14, 2010.

Without knowing any of the on-the-ground details, I think it's a safe assumption that the people who chose to prey on the Fitou name did so because very few consumers in China would be in a position to knowingly have drunk any before, and the region's low profile probably seemed pretty low risk to the counterfeiters. In their mind, who cares (or knows crap all) about Fitou? First growth Bordeaux chateaux have been actively policing and otherwise protecting their market, usually through proxies. Not something that a group of growers and producers in the French boondocks would be expected to do. By channeling their product under the Fitou name, they also didn't have to spend as much towards labeling and other bottle-related near-perfection, nor on the wine itself. Perhaps sloppy thinking (and execution) in retrospect, but it probably seemed a reasonable approach within the logic of the counterfeiting groupthink.

Dirk, are you talking about European-styled vinifera-grape wines, or more traditional Chinese versions of other alcoholic drinks made from various grains or fruits which are often called 'wine' in English?

And Zuf, there are a whole range of Cantonese or Pekinese or Fukienese or Hunanese dishes besides the Schezuanese that in no way shape or form would I want to have with decent wines from the Midi or elsewhere in France or Spain or Italy. Some dishes sure, but not those with a lot of soy sauce or various types of Chinese miso or vinegar. And no carignan with their seafood, if you please. That's why God made shaosing 'wine', beer, and several other local Chinese drinks that evolved together with those dishes... ;-)

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Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Feb 14, 2010.

dmcker, talking about Euro style wines. a la Great Wall

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Reply by zufrieden, Feb 14, 2010.

Of course, if you are going to try to dump 300,000 liters of wine and have the presence of mind to arrange for such a large-scale fraud, you are also aware of the impossibility of such a feat using the platinum labels of Europe. Perhaps I left the idea dangling a bit, but my point is that such counterfeiters will certainly off-load fake First Growths to the right market, so to speak. This would involve much smaller volumes at much higher prices per bottle. In fact, the buyers may have no intention of drinking the wine but wish to foist it on others in dribs and drabs. I'm pretty certain there are marks out there for such a scam but not on the scale of faux-Fitou. Such scams occur and occur all the time across a whole range of products. But I admit that my comments are just speculative.

As for Chinese food, I find almost no wines go with the cuisine of the Celestial Empire, but I'm always up for trying.

Dirk, you were saying about Great Wall (?) It looked like your post was cut off...

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Reply by zufrieden, Feb 14, 2010.

Just a final note on Chinese Cuisine before signing off. I have found some red wines to work with dim sum - though not all dishes. As you rightly say, dmcker, the soy and vinegar cause real problems with the mating of wines. I defer to you on this subject as I rarely drink wines with Chinese. I find beer is a far better match, but I keep trying to find a still table wine that works. I think you'll agree that standbys Gewurztraminer and Torrontes don't quite make the cut either.

For a true artiste almost no wine will work, but some of us must have red wine and if needs must I suggest strong, unsubtle wines like traditional wines of the Midi but none with any pretense to greatness. Regarding pretense, my experience informs me that many such wines of the Midi are called but few pass muster for greatness (of course, there are a few exceptions and some promising appellations, but I am talking generalities here). I prefer the the expression "decent, improving and sometimes really good" for wines of this region. My point being that you are more unlikely to waste finesse and subtlety on Chinese sweet, sour and salt using these wines.

Shantung Baron Philippe 2004, anyone?

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Reply by dmcker, Feb 14, 2010.

RBoulanger, forgot to mention that Sake (which I, too, capitalize to distinguish it from the more ordinary English noun) isn't really a regional word at all, other than that it originates in the Japanese language. お酒, or o-sake, the 'o' being an honorific, is just a generic term that means alcoholic beverage. To distinguish the beverage we call Sake from wine or beer or any other, it's usually referred to as 日本酒, or nihonshu, which means Nihon-style alcohol. So I guess if it's made in California from rice grown in Sacramento rather than Niigata west of Tokyo, that's no problem for Japanese producers, consumers or governmental bodies.

Someone else can address any issues, or lack of same, regarding vermouth.... ;-)

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Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Feb 14, 2010.

sehr geehrte Zufrieden, actually not cut off, just that Great Wall seemed to be one of the common wines available that I remember. I definitely concur that the best Chinese Food is beer food, you are getting hit with so many different tastes on one table that matching makes no sense at all, if anything a dry white is kind of general as far as suitability. Sometimes the Chinese host likes to offer wine to the party, but never minds if you say you would like a beer and I mean Chinese beer.

I think what might be happening is that there are a lot of small western style restaurants with a wine list (which I avoid when in China, the Chinese food is just too good, why waste time on mediocre western food), but that could be an opportunity for someone to peddle a copy second level regional "import" wine for some extra contribution margin.

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Reply by zufrieden, Feb 14, 2010.

The first time I visited China (a long, long time ago - long before it was fashionable or even generally feasible to travel there) the only thing worth drinking WAS beer - Tsingtao if you were lucky enough to get it. So I never had any of these pairing conundrums we've been discussing here.

Cheers!

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Reply by atonalprime, Feb 15, 2010.

The up and coming Chinese middleclass is going to be more concerned with social status more than ever. They may not have ever had the real Fitou, but now they can say that they own it and drink it, most likely fully knowing that it is not the real deal. Keeping up appearances is essential. As far as as an outsider, or Laowai 老外, is concerned, there is a rich tradition built into the Chinese culture where one protects their own culture but uses great caution, if not deliberate guile towards outsiders. I have many dear Chinese friends who would never try to take advantage, but they might be reluctant to keep me from being taken advantage of if their fellow countrymen were around. This is a concept of sinopsych that should be kept in mind when doing any business transactions. The Chinese business culture is full of idiosyncrasies and although not understandable or acceptable from a Western mindset, there is no other way to act for many Chinese citizens. As a result, I know that any time I visit Chinatown, I need to exercise deliberate caution and weariness. The best thing I can do is aggressively barter down that cheap Fitou to an even lower price so that I am returning the laowai favor.

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Reply by Jacobo121232342, Mar 25, 2010.
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And you don’t know the last one Fake Foie Gras, and as always, made in China!

Forgeries, fakes, and cheap imitations have been present since the existence of man, but now China has got further than ever. For years we have experienced how cheap imitations from China flood our markets with fake wine, and now their most recent forgery is the European tradition of Foie Gras.

Although Foie Gras benefits from a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO), it seems that a Taiwanese firm is currently selling a so called Foie Gras under the “Péhigord” brand, a forgery of the renowned Périgord region where PDO Foie Gras is produced. 

The Forgery, have a look on the Taiwanese seller:

http://209.85.135.132/search?q=cache:TN2HPa0LtAUJ:wap.made-in-china.com/showroom.do%3Fxcase%3DprodDetail%26comId%3DVeXnIdBZrYRL%26prodId%3DneYQCUzoORrj+%22Da+Hsin+Food+Enterprise%22&cd=4&hl=es&ct=clnk&client=safari

0
2
Reply by Jacobo121232342, Mar 25, 2010.

And you don’t know the last one Fake Foie Gras, and as always, made in China!

Forgeries, fakes, and cheap imitations have been present since the existence of man, but now China has got further than ever. For years we have experienced how cheap imitations from China flood our markets with fake wine, and now their most recent forgery is the European tradition of Foie Gras.

Although Foie Gras benefits from a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO), it seems that a Taiwanese firm is currently selling a so called Foie Gras under the “Péhigord” brand, a forgery of the renowned Périgord region where PDO Foie Gras is produced. 

The Forgery, have a look on the Taiwanese seller:

http://209.85.135.132/search?q=cache:TN2HPa0LtAUJ:wap.made-in-china.com/showroom.do%3Fxcase%3DprodDetail%26comId%3DVeXnIdBZrYRL%26prodId%3DneYQCUzoORrj+%22Da+Hsin+Food+Enterprise%22&cd=4&hl=es&ct=clnk&client=safari


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