Naughty list: ~30 China wineries closed for subpar, fake wine

Some 30 wineries in China’s northern Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, were closed after state-run CCTV claimed they were producing subpar and/or counterfeit products. From a story by Shanghai Daily:

Hebei Province shut down nearly 30 wineries yesterday after wines made there were exposed on television as not only adulterated, but also falsely labeled.

The local government acted after a state television program on Thursday evening showed that some wines made in the province’s Changli County contained just 20 percent fermented grape juice – the rest was sugar water mixed with chemicals, including coloring agents and flavorings.

Changli County has nearly 100 wineries and is also known as a distribution center for wine products.

It produces a third of China’s domestic grape wine and gained fame as China’s Bordeaux*, but now faces losing its reputation after CCTV reporters revealed several plants were churning out counterfeit wine tagged as world-renowned brands….

TV pictures clearly showed workers sticking false labels on bottles at the Jiahua Winery. Asked to comment, sales manager Cheng Heming told a CCTV reporter: “No problem. No problem. I don’t care (about punishment), but why do you care?”

CCTV claimed that Jiahua sold about 2.4 million bottles of the bogus wine each year.

Wang Jingyu, a sales manager of Genghao Beverage Co in Changli, told CCTV that only 20 percent of a bottle of fake wine was fermented grape juice while the rest was sugar water mixed with chemicals.

Some may not even contain wine at all but were merely a mix of flavored water, Wang added.

During six years in Beijing I’ve not only seen and tried my fair share of subpar and/or knockoff China wines but also witnessed a constant stream of stories about other such goods, from beer to water to steamed buns. (See I’m fake, you’re fake, we’re all fake and Counterfeit booze in Beijing: China Daily, fake beer, and you.) What provides hope is that these shutdowns come when we are seeing more wine producers trying to improve quality, and in some cases succeeding, and more consumers interested in wine. This seems like a good time for industry, academic, and government players to sit down and talk about wine, counterfeiting, and the enforcement of labeling laws, among other issues. I have sent some emails to friends in the local wine scene to see what light they can shed on this case, and will report back soon.

* In regard to making comparisons to Bordeaux, Changli is not alone in China in doing this, but the claim is made on the Hebei government website:

In the town of Changli in Hebei province, known as the “Asian Bordeaux” because the town lies on the same geographic line of latitude as the French region, some wineries are adopting a concept that they call “chateau wine”. They said they adopted the process from winemaking regions in Europe in order to make higher quality wines.

The wineries in Changli have small vineyards and employ strict environmental control measures. They also have elaborate grape growing and winemaking techniques, eschewing the large-scale industrialized production techniques of major winemakers such as the Great Wall Wine Co.

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  1. Not surprised. But I wonder if over 2M bottles of that 20% grape based “wine” were actually sold, perhaps consumers didn’t mind?!

    I’d be intrigued to try some of the “high-quality” China-produced wine, if anyone is interested sending me samples for review for my blog.

    Iron Chevsky.

  2. It’s good to see that action is being taken against these fakes. China has to protect wine drinkers, as well as their reputation in this emerging market. Hopefully this won’t deter people from trying known quality wines such as those produced by Grace Vineyards.

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