China passing off Australian wines as their own

Australian wines are being passed off as local products in China, a wine judge has revealed.

While visiting Australia as a guest judge at the Melbourne Wine Show, Beijing-based wine consultant Fongyee Walker said Chinese wine companies are frequently marketing imported wines as their own creations.

"I was judging in a Chinese wine show in Yantai and it was supposed to be a trophy-winning wine from Shandongm," she said.

“I thought ‘this really tastes like it’s from McLaren Vale’ . . . there was no way that Shandong could have produced a wine like that, there’s hardly any shiraz there at all.

"I said to the organisers: ‘Isn’t this supposed to be all Chinese wines?’ and he just sighed.

“Maybe it was bottled in China, but no way was it made there."

One of Australia’s leading wine companies, Treasury Wine Estates discovered last year that an imitation of its Penfolds brand was being marketed in China.

The Chinese version is called Benfolds, but features marketing material with Penfold’s chief winemaker Peter Gago.

Walker believes Australia shouldn’t worry about lastest figures showing a 2 per cent decline in overall wine export volumes to China.

She said sales of premium bottled red wine increased almost 50 per cent for the 12 months until December.

For a country that only recently started drinking red wine, it is quite a feat to have $156 million in sales over the one year period.

But it is also this fact that will change the way the Chinese buy and drink red wine, as many have been consuming it for five years or less, and will no doubt develop a more delicate palate, causing a move away from cheaply made wines, Walker explained.

"There’s a backlash coming in China — you hear it a lot that the world thinks they can dump their garbage wine in China, and the Chinese don’t understand why," she said.

Then, Walker says, the Australian wine export market will have a real opportunity to increase volumes, as we already have a reputation as one of the best wine creators in the world.