Lafite Battles Lafake in China

Whilst writing about the market for Bordeaux wines in China recently I mentioned that the combined trading volume of faked and genuine Chateau Lafite Rothschild in China is estimated to be between 2 million and 3 million bottles annually. Quite a few of you were surprised at the sheer volume (and criminal ingenuity) of the fake bottles and counterfeiters.

I have Chris Penwarden of SingaPoured to thank for the title of this blog as it was he who coined ‘Lafake’ and having looked into the situation it does seem as if Lafite have a battle on their hands.

It seems that counterfeiters have been selling ‘Lafite Castel’, ‘Lafite Empire,’ ‘Lafite Field’, ‘Lafite Race’, ‘Zhuhai Lafite,’ ‘Lafite Nobles,’ ‘Baron Lafite’, ‘Golden Lafite’, ‘Silver Lafite’, ‘Royal Lafite,’ ‘Duke Lafite,’and ‘Lafite Family.’

Not unsurprisingly Lafite has launched a full intellectual property protection campaign in China and have already won 6 lawsuits against Chinese companies selling fake Lafite. Shanghai Daily reported that by the end of 2011, the company had filed more 160 trademark lawsuits against companies trying to benefit from Lafite’s reputation and 5,000 bottles of fake wine had been seized by police and market watchdogs.

Christophe Salin, CEO of Lafite, told the press that “if things go well, with the cooperation of the Chinese government, fake Lafite will be eradicated within two years.”

Lafite’s battle with Lafake is that it is damaging its brand. The Global Times have pointed out that as China is not a mature market for wine what most of the consumers care about is the label on the bottle, not the taste of the wine. Sommelier Duan Lian said that: Almost 90% of the Lafite sold in China is fake. The prevalence of counterfeits has gradually driven consumers away from the brand and eroded its value.”

The more I read about counterfeiting in China the more amazed I become – there are unofficial stories about secret floating Lafite wine factories on ocean going cargo vessels:

Liu Zhihui, vice chairman of the realty subcommittee of Asia-Pacific Urban Development Association, claimed on his microblog that he was told that an agent was producing counterfeit Lafite wine in a secret wine factory on a cargo ship through blending low quality French wine in fake Lafite bottles and selling it to various outlets in China.”

It’s a costly problem – and a potentially dangerous one – some of the fakes don’t even contain anything resembling wine but are a chemical soup of alcohol additives, perfume and colouring mixed together.

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