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26/06/2012

China fakes Australian premium organic wine

by Dr. John Paull

China fakes Australian premium organic wine photo: Henschke

Perhaps fakery is the sincerest form of flattery. But a South Australian producer of premium wine was not impressed to learn of a Chinese look-alike of their top drop.

Henschke Wines use organic and biodynamic production principles in their vineyards. Henschke is based in the big-sky Eden Valley, with vineyards as well in the Adelaide Hills and the famous Barossa Valley, all within 100 kilometres of the city of Adelaide. 

Henschke wines are offered with bottle prices ranging from AU$8.50 (€6.80) through to a ‘Hill of Grace’ 2007 at AU $595 (€478). Viticulturist Prue Henschke confirmed that Henscke wines are exported to China.

According to the Adelaide press, “an Australian wine” bearing the Henschke name and livery, along with a ‘Hill of Glory’ moniker, was promoted and sold at the Top Wine China fair held in Beijing in June 2012. This wine appears to be a knock-off of the genuine article, and the real Henschke Wines had no representation at the wine fair.

Australian intellectual property lawyer Michael Hamilton is reported as stating that taking legal action in China would be “absolutely impossible”, while Prue Henschke has declined to comment. Prue states that Henschke use no synthetic fertilizers and no herbicides. They rely rather on a three-yearly application of 100 cubic metresper hectare of straw mulch and compost. It is a viticulture management regime that is “better for the soil and the soil micro-organisms” says Prue, and under this regime “the soil has improved out of sight”, although the cost is higher than applying chemicals.

The Henschke web site shows photos of their application of the biodynamic preparations. The Henscke family fled from Silesia to Australia in 1841 to escape religious persecution. Their Silesian village of Kutschlau (Chociule, Poland) is not so far from another Silesian village, Koberwitz (Kobierzyce), where Dr. Rudolf Steiner launched biodynamic agriculture in 1922.

Australia’s annual wine exports account for AU$ 2.8 billion (€2.2 billion), with 2.5 million bottles exported daily and destined for over 100 countries. Meanwhile in China, wine consumption is growing faster (at 36 % in 2010) than their own wine production is growing (at 22% in 2010). China is without doubt an attractive market for premium Australian wines. The future will see Australian wine producers taking further steps to guarantee the authenticity and integrity of their vintages, and that is good news for China’s wine connoisseurs and bad news for China’s counterfeiters.

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