Chinese Wine Fraud Sparks Supply Chain Scandal


As we head closer to the time of the year where wine makes a more frequent (and festive) appearance at the table, connoisseurs and industry professionals alike are working to resolve a rather sizable counterfeiting problem in China. The HKTDC International Wine & Spirits Fair recently served as a forum for discussion about the issue, where it was revealed that as many as nine out of 10 bottles of Lafite that ship out of China are counterfeited. In addition, China’s police recently obtained more than 10,000 bottles of fake Bordeaux.

Wine differs significantly from other counterfeit-prone products in that many of the buyers tend to be establishments that cater to wealthier clientele. Provenance and quality are of utmost concern when it comes to wine, meaning purchasers would rather pay more to be certain of a legitimate product than risk stocking wine cellars with an inferior vintage. Now it is up to industry professionals to develop methods to prevent fake wines from moving through the supply chain, which may include supply chain management software and RFID tracking to ensure less human error, better tracking of product and enhanced monitoring of temperature fluctuations while en route.

Gaining greater control and visibility of supply chain management may be at the top of the to-do list for the wine industry, with clientele becoming restless over exactly what they may end up buying. Toby Marion of Golden Gate Wine, Hong Kong’s largest US wine importer, said of the problem, “It’s important to use a full service logistics provider so you can control the process all the way through.”

With the problem being so pervasive, high-end wine tastings in Hong Kong are concluding the evening by smashing empty wine bottles to prevent entry into the black market. Supply chain management applications should make it more difficult for imposters to wend their way into legitimate product shipments; trial and error coupled with increased visibility will go a long way in attacking the problem, especially with buyers being more concerned with quality than a slight cost increase. In the end, all of the effort should help ensure that glass of New Year’s Eve wine arrives at the table as described, rather than as a black market knockoff.

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