Vinexpo Asia-Pacific: Fake fine wine in China 'becoming a bit of an urban myth'

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The idea that Greater China is beset with fake versions of fine wines is in danger of being overblown, according to the head of wine sales in the country for auction house Christie's.

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In China, Christie's finds around 15 wines 'that look a bit funny' out of tens of thousands that it inspects annually, said Simon Tam during a conference on the future of the country's wine market at this week's Vinexpo Asia-Pacific trade fair in Hong Kong.

While he said his team reject any wine they are suspicious about, he believes that 'fake phobia' has skewed some people's perceptions of the problem.

Counterfeit wine is known to be a significant issue in China, but no one has been able to put a concrete figure on the proportion of the market that it constitutes.

'It's becoming a bit of an urban myth,' Tam said. 'There are some railway stations in China where they'll offer you money for empty bottles of top Crus Classes, but those are fakes that are easily spotted. There are not many real clever fakes.'

Critics might argue that some of the wines are only easily spotted if consumers know what to look for, and that China is a relatively young market.

However, other members of the Vinexpo panel agreed with Tam's point of view. 'The challenge is not so much fake wine, it's confusion in the marketplace about made-up labels and stories,' said Don St Pierre Jr, co-founder and board member of premium importer ASC Fine Wines.

A growing number of merchants, importers and retailers in Mainland China are taking steps to build confidence with their customers and end-consumers.

'We do a lot to persuade our consumers [that wines we sell are genuine],' said Yuan Jiang, chief executive of Yesmywine.

ASC has also just launched a new QR-code tracking system that enables consumers to view the entire shipping history and origins of their wine on their smartphones.

The company said that it is the first to have adapted the technology for the Mainland China wine market.

Read more on ASC's new system in an exclusive interview with John Watkins, to be published next week.

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