The house where 10,000 bottles of fake Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) wines were found had been under surveillance by Chinese police for some time.
The huge cache of bottles, believed to be forgeries, was found in an empty house in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province that had been under surveillance by the local law enforcement agencies, and was known about by the DBR lawyers.
Contrary to reports in the Chinese media, there were no bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild itself – but large quantities of the company’s DBR Collection brands, which include Légends, Saga, and Réserve Spéciale.
The police have questioned the owner of the house, a Mr Zou, although he denies any involvement, explaining that last month he found his house, which had stood vacant for nine years, filled with wine bottles. The house was reportedly guarded by five large dogs, including two Tibetan mastiffs.
Christophe Salin, the managing director of DBR (Lafite) told Decanter.com, ‘We are aware of it and our lawyers in China are working with the Chinese fraud office.’
It is believed that forgers are now less willing to fake high-cost wines such as Lafite Rothschild, as the punishment for forgery in China is linked to the value of the goods, and death sentences have recently been handed down to forgers of the most expensive products.
Instead forgers produce bottles from the lower-cost range of wines, but ensure that ‘DBR Lafite’ is prominent on the label.
There have been numerous cases of forged Lafite bottles over the past few years.
The company has won six lawsuits against Chinese companies this year alone, and has been awarded around CNY800,000 (£80,000) in compensation.
DBR (Lafite) has also increased the security on its bottles, adding Prooftag labels to every bottle of Lafite Rothschild from the 2009 vintage, and to any older vintages that leave the Pauillac estate. The second wine, Carruades de Lafite, uses the same system, from the 2010 vintage.
‘In many ways, we are more protected now in China than we are in Europe,’ Salin said. ‘This is a highly sensitive issue, but does show that the local law enforcement agencies, and the fraud office, are successfully cracking down on the problem.’
Written by Jane Anson