Chinese consumers are at the mercy of unscrupulous wine producers mislabelling bottles and selling massively adulterated wines as genuine.
According to US McClatchy Newspapers, some Chinese producers are giving homegrown wines names like ‘Valley Napa’, putting false vintages on labels, and mixing imported bulk wines homegrown juice and not labelling it as such.
State broadcaster China Radio International said investigators this year found ‘many wines consisted of little more than water, pigment and alcohol, with trace elements of grape juice.’
Chinese vineyards have also claimed their wines come from prestigious overseas producers.
Chinese labelling regulations do not have the reach or strictness of EU or American regulations: a producer can easily – and legally – mislead consumers as to vintage and where the wine comes from.
Under current rules, producers can mix imported bulk wine with their own wines without mentioning it on the label. New rules coming into effect in January should bring labelling regulations into step with the west, requiring 80% of the wine to come from the vintage year stated, and 75% to be the grape variety indicated.
Qi Wang, head of the China Alcoholic Drinks Industry Association, said, ‘In recent years various problems in the wine industry have caused a negative effect among consumers, such as fake vintage and bad quality.’
Bulk wine imports to China increased 121% last year. Most bulk wine is imported by the three big producers, Great Wall, Dynasty and Changyu, which label their wines as products of China.
The Chinese at present drink less than a bottle per head per year – an average that goes up massively in the main centres of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Macau and Shenzhen – but consumption is increasing year on year.
An expert panel at a Decanter conference earlier this year said the Chinese could be drinking as many as 50m cases a year by 2017, compared to 2.3m now.
Written by Adam Lechmere, and agencies