CHINA - The cellar master at a vineyard in China can't stop laughing while describing a bottle of supposedly French wine a friend gave him two years ago.
It's white wine, with a label proclaiming it is from the vineyards of Romanee-Conti, the bottle bearing the logo that is on bottles of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. It declares its origin as Montpellier in southern France.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, better known for highly prized and highly priced vintages from France's Burgundy region, makes only a tiny amount of white wine, labelled Montrachet. It has nothing to do with the equally prestigious Lafite, which is from the Bordeaux region, and neither brand is produced anywhere near Montpellier.
"It's the most magnificent example of a hijacked brand of wine I've ever seen," Mr Bruno Paumard, who works with Chateau Hansen in China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region, told Reuters. "It doesn't get better than that."
Liquor stores, restaurants and supermarkets in China, the world's most populous nation and fifth-largest wine consumer, wage a constant battle against fake wines. The amount of knock-offs on the market may increase as Beijing investigates wine imports from the European Union, threatening anti-dumping tariffs or import curbs.
"More expensive wine is okay, I just don't want any fakes," said Ms Helen Nie, a Beijing housewife sharing a bottle of the Italian house white at a restaurant with a friend.
Nobody knows how much of the market is cornered by fakes and copycats, said Mr Jim Boyce, who follows China's wine industry on his blog, grapewallofchina.com
"Things that are faked tend to be things that are very popular," Mr Boyce said.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have closed a museum which contained scores of fake exhibits, including a vase decorated with cartoon characters billed as a Qing dynasty artefact, state-run media reported yesterday. The facility, built in Hebei province at a cost of 540 million yuan (S$110 million), has "no qualification to be a museum as its collections are fake", a local official told the Global Times