Fake wine in China

All is not what it claims to be in the Chinese wine market.

According to several reports, counterfeit wine abounds in China.

A bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild recently may have sold in a Chinese restaurant for 50,000 yuan ($7,883). The bottle actually held wine worth less than $5. Hmm: 157,660 percent mark up. Nice profit if you can get it, especially in a communist country.

Official numbers reveal things are awry in Shanghai. According to Château Lafite, the vineyard produces about 20,000 cases (240,000 bottles) a year. Of that, Lafite allots 50,000 bottles for sale in China.

Meanwhile in China, a single five-star hotel in south Guangdong Province claims they pour 40,000 bottles of Lafite a year, which is more than 100 a day, so—ah—hmmm.

Zhejiang Province, further up the coast, boasts it guzzles more than 300,000 bottles of Lafite annually.

Add the hotel and the province together, and it is 100,000 bottles more than Lafite produces a year for the entire world. Something not adding up here.

Chinese wine fraud is so flamboyantly flagrant that fake Lafite is divided into three levels of quality, with different price points for the quality of the fake. Poor fake, average fake, good fake.

The trouble, of course, is too many Chinese want the glamour and pretense of rarified wine, but have not yet developed the palate to parse prime pours from plonk pretenders. Give them time.

For now, at least, an empty Lafite bottle waiting to be filled with anything drinkable is money in the bank in China.

Recommendations (all authentic; alas, none personally tasted):

• Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé Brut. $710

• Pingus Ribera del Duero 2006. $685

• Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2003. $400

• Louis Roederer Cristal. $286