Bordeaux battles name thieves

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 October, 2011, 12:00am


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One of the world's most famous winemaking areas has begun what it admits will be an uphill task to gain brand-name protection on the mainland in the face of widespread abuse.

Bordeaux is seeking protected designation-of-origin status on the mainland, similar to what it enjoys in the European Union, to prevent its name being used on products not made in the French region 500 kilometres southwest of Paris.

'We want Bordeaux to be registered for geographical recognition,' Bordeaux Wine Council board member Allan Sichel said yesterday. 'Preparation has started but it has a long way to go.' He said misuse of the origin name was a big problem across the border, more common than the production of counterfeits.

Under European Union rules, only foodstuffs produced in a given area using recognised expertise can identify themselves as such.

For example, the only sparkling wines that can call themselves 'Champagne' are those produced in the Champagne region. But there is no mutual recognition of the scheme between China and the EU.

In Hong Kong for the annual Wine and Dine festival, at which Bordeaux is a major exhibitor, Sichel said several chateaux had introduced a bubble tag security system to combat fakes. Each tag includes a unique bubble pattern and a code. To check the wine's authenticity, a buyer can enter the code on a website and compare it with the pattern.

Hong Kong is the No 1 destination for Bordeaux wines in terms of import value: HK$3.7 billion in the year ending in July. This includes re-exports. The mainland imported the highest volume of wine, worth HK$2.8 billion, in this period.

In the first eight months this year, Hong Kong imported HK$4.1 billion of French wines, which was as much as the whole of last year.

To step up promotion of Hong Kong in Europe, the city will have a pavilion at the Bordeaux Wine Festival next June. The Tourism Board will take local Michelin-star chefs to the festival, while Hong Kong menus may be introduced in starred restaurants in the region.

The Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency, meanwhile, is planning a certification system to ensure wines stay in excellent condition when they are transported to the city.