China Saying No to Faux Bordeaux
With its growing wealth and millions of recently minted wine connoisseurs, China has become the fifth-largest wine consuming nation in the world, according to an International Wine and Spirit Research study.
It’s the world’s biggest consumer of Bordeaux, especially high-end Bordeaux like Chateau Lafite. And, says a senior Chinese government official, it is also the source of much of the world’s counterfeit Bordeaux, at least some of which is likely to be made on boats anchored off the Chinese coast in international waters. In fact, fakery is so rampant that an estimated half of all the Lafite consumed in China is not Lafite at all, but rather low-end wine in recycled bottles or in bottles with forged labels.
So now the Chinese government is cracking down. Heading up the effort is the country’s head of the Academy of Inspection and Quarantine, Xinshi Li, who recently introduced a new program to combat the production of fake wines and food products. Called PEOP (Protected Eco-origin Product), the program will stamp wine and food products with a government-issued label guaranteeing their authenticity and traceability to their source. The program works by imprinting labels with visible and hidden codes, some of which will allow consumers to do their own checking via their cellphones.
A high-tech Western effort to combat wine fraud was also recently unveiled. The CapSeal system aims to prevent fraudsters from refilling “prestige” bottles with cheap plonk by use of a computer chip connected to an antenna in the neck of the bottle, just above the cork. Scanning the chip with a Near Field Communication smartphone or device will reveal whether the bottle has been tampered with and the cork removed. The patent-pending system also works with existing corks and bottle caps, which should be a relief to cost- (and security-) conscious wine producers.