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Bordeaux chateaux boycott Chinese names poster

Christie’s China has become embroiled in a ‘misunderstanding’ with Bordeaux over translations of chateau names into Chinese.

Last week Christie’s announced it would publish a poster showing Chinese names for nearly all the 61 chateaux of the 1855 classification.

Although this is not the first time it has been done – Ch’ng Poh Tiong, Decanter columnist and publisher of the Singapore Wine Review, set up a phonetic translation system in 2008 – Christie’s head of wine for China, Simon Tam, implied it was official, with written approval from all but a handful of properties.

Now the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855, as well as a number of chateaux, are refusing to have anything to do with the poster, claiming they did not approve the translations.

The issue of trademarks in China is fraught with pitfalls, they say, with many names awaiting approval from the Chinese authorities.

‘This is a very sticky subject at the moment, and no one has the right to officially make any statement until all our requests and the registration have been confirmed by the Chinese office of trademarks,’ Philippe Delfaut, managing director of Chateau Kirwan told Decanter.com.

Delfaut has boycotted the poster, and Sylvain Boivert, director of the 1855 Classification, told Decanter.com he had the names of at least 17 chateaux that had not given their approval.

Boivert also said the 1855 had given approval ‘for the [Christie’s] catalogue, not for the poster’.

Speaking from Singapore, Tam insisted he had never said this was an official translation.

Moreover, he said, the situation was ‘a misunderstanding’ due to the fact Christie’s had appended the Chinese characters for the word ‘chateau’ to the approved names, making them two to three characters longer and therefore unfamiliar.

Corinne Conroy, marketing director at Chateau Brane Cantenac, accepted this explanation but said, ‘Nonetheless, we did not wish for the name to look longer. On the contrary, we have been advised by our various importers to keep our Chinese name as short as possible so that it would be easier for the customers to read and remember. This is why we chose the three-character translation that I recommended.’

Tam told Decanter.com he appreciated it is ‘a touchy subject’ but he would not withdraw the poster, of which 500 had been printed to be distributed to the chateaux for en primeur week on 1 April.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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