Wine on the Wane: Fake Vintages Undermine Market in China


The price of Chateau Lafite Rothschild plunged sharply in China from the second half of last year due to a glut of fake imitations, which caused many investors and collectors to suffer losses.

A report from the Beijing Daily said the price of the wine had skyrocketed 30% yearly in the past few years as growing incomes stimulated demand, making it a hot investment target for Chinese collectors.

Yet Chateau Lafite counterfeits have become rampant in the world's second-largest economy. The biggest vendor of Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Beijing told the local Beijing News that he imported poor-quality wine from France, rebottled it as Chateau Lafite en route and sold these counterfeits for thousands of yuan a bottle.

Chinese wine expert Zhu Linong told the Beijing News that buying Chateau Lafite Rothschild in China is always a riddle. The vineyard produces 200,000 bottles a year, of which only 40,000 bottles are exported to China. Yet far more than this amount is consumed in China, meaning much of it is fake.

According to data from Liv-ex in London, a global marketplace for wines, a major drop in the price of Chateau Lafite Rothschild has been seen since the second half of 2011, especially the 2008 vintage, which saw a 45% reduction in price compared with the highest price in March.

It was the first time in eight years that the price of Chateau Lafite Rothschild slumped in China and many investors faced heavy losses.

At a Sotheby's auction in early Oct. 2011 in Hong Kong, the sale of 59 lots of 821 bottles of wines was cancelled, the first time this had happened since 2009.

Some investors told the newspaper that the incident showed the passion for wine collecting in China is on the wane.

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