China Now Counterfeiting Fine Wines

Infamous for its refusal to enforce patent laws, China's ever-resourceful knock-off artists have uncorked a lucrative new business: bottling phony high-end wines in old French bottles.

What's the Latest Development?

China's upwardly mobile society is developing a taste for imported luxuries, including fine wine, leaving its fiery grain alcohols behind. But Chinese vineyards are exploiting customers because their pallets remain quite undefined. "Bootleggers are dousing the market with fakes, refilling empty bottles from famous chateaux with inferior vintages." The problem is so bad that Christie's ends its tasting events in Hong Kong and China by smashing empty bottles with a hammer, lest they find their way onto the black market.

What's the Big Idea?

The spike in Chinese wine consumption is evidence of an increasingly materialistic society, not just because citizens can afford imported wines, but because it is not necessarily the wine that matters. "For some businesspeople and government officials, the value of sharing a [fine wine] lies in how much face it bestows, not how well it pairs with a meal. 'It's an immature market,' said one wine consultant. 'The first thing people care about is the label on the bottle, not the taste of the wine.'"

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