Wine could be the next category of consumer product to face charges of major fakery.
A little more than a year ago, I wrote an article saying that Chinese vineyards commonly fib about the vintage of their labels, and even about whether what’s in the bottles is actually wine or sugar water with some food coloring, alcohol and grape juice thrown in.
I noted that Chinese vintners commonly mix foreign bulk wine with local wine, and consumers are misled about what they drink.
Here’s an excerpt from that article:
Still to be resolved is whether local winemakers can mix bulk wine imported from countries such as Spain, Chile, Australia and Argentina with their own wines without telling the consumer. Such bulk wine can sell for as little as 40 cents a liter.
Bulk wine imports to China climbed 121 percent last year, hitting nearly five times the volume of imported bottled wine. Industry experts say most of the bulk wine goes into the bottled wine of China’s three big vintners — Great Wall, Dynasty and Changyu which label their wines as products of China.
A purchasing executive with a foreign supermarket chain operating in China, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he doesn’t want to antagonize local vineyards, said of China’s homegrown wines: “I believe nothing on the label.”
Now along comes the heartsick chairmain of a vineyard in Hebei province who’s spilling the beans about what happens. A blog posting of the anonymous vintner is making the rounds on the internet, and a translation popped up on China Digital Times (unavailable behind the Chinese firewall).
Here’s what he says in part:
According to the internal source, “wine made from grapes grown in China occupies only 20 percent of the Chinese wine market, and the remaining 80 percent is imported junk wine.” “The market size is about 300,000 tons today in China; however, only 20 percent is produced locally and 80 percent or more is from imports. What are the imports? They are ‘junk wines, so called ‘garbage-rank imported wine,’ just like the second-hand suits imported from Japan and Korea in the past. The compositions of these junk wines are unknown, and the quality and quantity of each gradient is difficult to monitor. Most of them are not qualified for the aging process or were manufactured during bad years for wineries.”
The Chairman admitted honestly, “I have no idea what my colleagues will say about this situation. However, as an entrepreneur who is passionate about the wine industry and is dedicated to creating a gold label in Chinese wine, I feel very pained to see this happen. Why do our Chinese consumers have to drink the junk wine that the foreigners do not drink?! Remixed wine occupies about 70 percent market share of the wine that is sold for under 30 RMB, 40 percent for that under 60 RMB and 50 percent on average for wine under 200 RMB. In particular, the wine sold at nightclubs (entertainment places) is extremely poor quality. (The manufacturers) add food coloring to dry white wine to make dry red wine.
I’ve visited a couple of vineyards near Beijing, including the Taillan vineyard that is was built with French investment and the Bolongbao vineyard that produces a high end wine.
But we generally never, ever drink Chinese wine. And it just boils down to one thing: I don’t trust what’s on the label.