China recognizes Bordeaux, but who cares?

By Rebecca Gibb and Rachel Li on July 06, 2015
This week China recognised 45 appellations within Bordeaux's wine region as official Geographic Indications.
Photo by: Pascal Parrot/Getty Images

Story highlights

  • Chinese authorities recognize 45 appellations within Bordeaux as Geographical Indications
  • Designation gives wines from those regions greater protection against imitations
  • Industry insiders are pleased, while consumer sentiment is mixed

The Bordeaux wine trade is celebrating its new status as a Geographical Indication in China, but there are some members of the Chinese wine scene that are wondering what all the fuss is about.

In the past week, 45 appellations within the Bordeaux wine region gained recognition as a Geographical Indication, giving them greater protection against cheap imitations and providing a legal basis to tackle those misappropriating their name.

The French Minister of Agriculture claimed it was an historic step to protect the appellations of Bordeaux but it’s a storm in a wine glass for others.

Lu Yang, wine director for Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, said: “Frankly I didn’t think too much of it when I first saw the news. I think Bordelais may have exaggerated this political episode.”

When asked his opinion on whether this would change the sales of general Bordeaux AOC, or improve the promotion of “Bordeaux” as a brand name, he replied, “I doubt there would be any physical changes made.”

Similarly, Mr. Ma, a wine lover based in Chengdu, doesn’t see it having any impact on fellow consumers.

“This is not big news for general wine lovers such as myself. In my understanding, Bordeaux has always been and will always be a wine region in which it produces both premium wines such as Lafite and Mouton as well generic table wines that costs 1 or 2 euros a bottle. It doesn’t make much of a difference whether the Chinese Government admits the region or not.

Identifying ‘fake’ wines

Those involved in the selling of Bordeaux wine in China are rather more exuberant about the implications of the recognition of a Bordeaux Geographical Indication.

Li Shiyi, general manager of wines & spirits division, COFCO, said: “In the past all we could do was press charges on infringement of patent right. But now we can actually call these wines that pretend to be from Bordeaux ‘fake’ or ‘fraud’.

“It makes all the difference in terms of the strength we can employ on protecting our products, and the cost effect of what we do. There’s no doubt that Government’s recognition is a good news to us wine trade.”

Lu Yide, CEO of online wine retailer Juimei.com added: “The fact that China’s government acknowledges ‘Bordeaux’ as a legal appellation means that it has determined to solve the chaotic situation of imported wines in Chinese market.

“This is only the first step. And next will be to set out relevant regulations to solve the problem ahead. This news for sure will have a big impact on the regulations of importing wines in China.”

The creation of a Bordeaux GI in China is just the tip of an iceberg: there are ongoing discussions regarding the mutual recognition of approximately 100 geographical indications between the European Union and China, the French Minister said in a statement.

On home soil, the Chinese wine region of Xinjian may soon have its own registered appellations. It has been reported that two wine-producing areas in the province of Xinjiang are part-way through the geographical indications process.

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)

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