By Jim Boyce
Jake van der Kamp, a financial columnist at South China Morning Post, has priorities when it comes to fake goods. He doesn’t approve of fake aircraft parts, milk formula or medicines. Not one bit. But fake wine? Apparently, he finds it hilarious.
“I find it hard to get worked up about the evils of wine faking. In fact, in some ways I think fakers provide a valuable service to society. They make it plain when consumer goods are overpriced,” he begins.
“But where is the deep evil in a bottle of wine that is not quite what it is billed to be, particularly when many of the wine drinkers whom the fakers target cannot tell the difference anyway?” he writes, and later adds, “What wine fakers do is stick a pin into what is, for most, clearly an illusion. I would love to see [upscale supermarket] Jasons’ bottle of Lafite proved a fake. How I would laugh.”
I guess there is some poetic justice at people flaunting their wealth on something they think is of value when it really isn’t. But all jokes aside:
- Wine is something we consume internally and thus fakes are a safety issue. Even if a person drinking a given bottle cannot distinguish between ’82 Lafite from a ’12 Rawson’s Retreat, it bodes well for everyone to ensure the supply chain for that bottle — and others — is a safe one.
- The comparison to milk formula and medicine rings hollow since there are no doubt consumers who would be unable to tell the difference between the real thing and one that is “not quite what it is billed to be”. I doubt anyone would argue that such ignorance legitimates fakes.
- And saying the government should not use resources to crack down on cases such as fake Lafite — as van der Kamp states — ignores that a faker might produce across a wide spectrum of labels, including more general ones. That fake Lafite might well be the most lucrative product in the portfolio and a crackdown there the most punishing.
The “can’t tell the difference” angle is one I have heard often in the booze business. You see it in Beijing in the kind of outfits that might take an empty Grey Goose, Ketel One or Stoli bottle and fill it with something far less agreeable. Whether or not a particular person buying it can tell the difference or not, I would prefer they get the real thing so the rest of us do, too.
The link to the van der Kamp article is here.