A Fascinating Peek Inside China's Booming Counterfeit Wine Market

Europe exported nearly $1 billion worth of wine to China last year. Counterfeiters are increasingly cashing in.

China is one of the world's biggest wine consumers, importing nearly $1 billion worth of wine (67.9 million gallons) from the European Union last year. The growing appetite for the drink has brought with it a booming counterfeit market. One sales director tells Reuters that most wine counterfeiting happens "in secondary or third-tier cities where they don't have much wine knowledge." Expensive European, particularly French, wines are popular with fakers.

Spirit companies are eager to crack down on the frauds. Some companies have begun to use tamper-proof caps and authentication technologies; others even established bottle buyback programs. Some wine makers have their bottles smashed after tastings to prevent them from being illegally refilled.

Wine counterfeits may increase even more now that China has announced it will investigate wine imports from the EU, threatening anti-dumping tariffs or import curbs in response to Europe's anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels.

Below, via Reuters, a glimpse into China's increasing love of wine and spirits, and stopping the counterfeit culture that sometimes comes with it: 

Police officers check bottles of confiscated fake wines before destroying them in Xi'an, Shaanxi province January 4, 2012. (Reuters)

(Reuters)

Commercial law enforcement personnel examine bottles of confiscated fake whisky before pouring it into sewage during a massive destruction campaign of fake products in Wuhan, Hubei province December 12, 2012. A total of 2,928 bottles of fake liquor were poured down into the sewage during the campaign on Wednesday, local media reported. The banner reads, "Destruction site of fake and copyright infringed products." Picture taken December 12, 2012.

(Reuters)

Police officers check bottles of confiscated fake wines before destroying them in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region November 6, 2011.

Confiscated bottles of fake wines are destroyed by the police in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region November 6, 2011.REUTERS/Stringer

(Reuters)

Charles Gaudfroy, a manager of a French restaurant, shows a bottle of fake Romanee-Conti, which was found at a wine shop in the southern part of China, during a photo opportunity for Reuters in Beijing June 6, 2013. According to Gaudfroy who keeps the bottle for fun, "Vin Blanc" (white wine) and "Vin Rouge" (red wine) should not be printed on the same label.

A participant looks at a bottle of German HenKell Trocken sparkling wine at a wine expo in Beijing, June 4, 2013.

(Reuters)

(Jon Woo/Reuters)

An impersonator of China's late Chairman Mao Zedong (C) poses with a bottle of wine during an advertisement shooting at a photo studio in Taiyuan, Shanxi province April 16, 2013.

/Reuters)

Visitors taste wine at a booth promoting French wine during Vinexpo Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong May 29, 2012. More than 14,000 visitors from 33 countries attended the expo's seventh edition, the region's largest international wine and spirits exhibition, according to organizers. (Bobby Yip

A man introduces his products inside a wine store at the business area of Ruzhou county, China's central Henan province, December 17, 2012. (Aly Song

/Reuters)

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