FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 4, 2012
SCHUMER: FINGER LAKES ICE WINEMAKERS SEEK TO SELL WINE IN CHINA & TAP HUGE CHINESE MARKET, BUT CHINESE COUNTERFEIT ICE WINEMAKERS ARE RIGGING THE GAME AND KEEPING NY OUT
Today at Sheldrake Point Winery in Ovid, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the federal government to pressure China to crack down on their counterfeit wines that are flooding the fast-growing and profitable Chinese wine market, keeping high-quality Finger Lakes wines from competing with these cheap fakes. Specifically, Schumer called on the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Customs and Border Protection and several other federal agencies to pressure China to crack down on cheap Chinese counterfeit wines, to ensure that New York’s high-quality ice wines have the opportunity to meet the increasing demand of the fastest growing wine market in the world. Finger Lakes wineries like Sheldrake Point in Ovid, Seneca County are eager to sell wine in China, where authentic ice wine can sell at nearly $200 a bottle, in order to grow their business and add jobs. However, counterfeit Chinese wines are flooding this profitable market and effectively blocking Finger Lakes wineries from the huge profits that access to the Chinese wine market could provide. Several Canadian ice winemakers have seen their business slow due to the counterfeiting of their product, and New York wineries are hesitant to enter this market knowing that the same could happen to them. Schumer also highlighted his concern that Chinese fakes may be infiltrating the U.S. wine market, and urged the federal government to crack down on mislabeled or counterfeit wines that pose health risks to consumers and harm Finger Lakes wine producers’ bottom line.
“As the wine market in China grows at a rapid rate, it should be ripe for the picking for Rochester Finger Lakes winemakers so that they can make major profits and expand their businesses. But, cheap Chinese counterfeit wines are rigging the game and make it impossible for wineries like Sheldrake Point to enter and compete in the profitable market in China,” said Schumer. “Authentic ice wine can sell for up to $200 a bottle in China, and presents a massive business opportunity for wineries like Sheldrake Point and others in the Rochester Finger Lakes, but cheap Chinese counterfeits flood the market, and make it difficult for real ice wine to compete. That’s why I’m calling on the federal government to pressure China to put a cork in their counterfeit ice wines, so that New York wineries can compete fair and square, and benefit from exports to China’s flourishing wine market.”
Schumer noted that according to media reports, numerous Canadian ice winemakers export to China, and have seen their businesses slow because of Chinese counterfeiters of their products. In some cases, Chinese counterfeiters concoct cheap imitations of authentic wine, by bottling a combination of water, sugar, honey or table wine and inventing a bottle label to trick Chinese consumers. This practice is widespread with Canadian wine, and New York wines would similarly fall victim to this counterfeiting if the government does not intervene. New York wineries like Sheldrake Point are effectively prevented from entering the Chinese market because of this practice and its overall lack of regulation and oversight. Schumer is calling on the appropriate federal agencies to pressure China to eliminate these counterfeit wines, so that Rochester Finger Lakes wineries can benefit from the Chinese market, where authentic ice wines can sell for as much as $200 per bottle.
In China the middle class is growing rapidly, and as it grows it is drastically increasing the demand for authentic wines. Schumer pointed out that it is also important for the U.S. Government and Chinese Government to work together to educate the growing Chinese middle class on how to spot counterfeit wines. Some experts project that anywhere between 50% to 80% of ice wines currently found on Chinese shelves are fake, which not only hurts the Chinese consumer but also hurts authentic ice wine producers like those in New York, Canada, and Germany. By cracking down on counterfeit ice wines Schumer hopes to help pave the way for authentic New York ice wines to meet the growing demand.
U.S. wineries and New York ice wine producers cannot fight the sale of counterfeit, mislabeled wines alone. For this reason, Schumer is asking the federal government to work with Chinese officials to crackdown on companies producing and selling counterfeit and mislabeled wine. Schumer is also asking that the agencies work with Chinese officials to educate consumers about the importance of buying authentic, high-end wines and the dangers of counterfeits. In these tough economic times, Schumer said we cannot stand idly by while cheap Chinese fakes hurt U.S. wine producers’ bottom line and undermine their ability to grow exports.
A copy of Schumer’s letter appears below:
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk
US Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner David Aguilar
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton
Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau Administrator John Manfreda
National Intellectual Property Rights Center Director Lev Kubiak
Dear Representative, Secretary, Commissioner, Director, Administrator and Director,
I write to express concern about counterfeit wines sold in China. Cheap Chinese fakes are driving down prices, making it difficult for authentic, high-end U.S. wines – including New York ice wines – to sell in China. I urge you to press China to shut down the production and sale of counterfeit, adulterated and mislabeled wine.
According to an International Wine and Spirit Research study, China has become the fifth-largest consumer of wine. With China’s growing upper class, there is an increasing demand for top-quality vintages. I want your help to ensure that New York’s outstanding ice wines have the opportunity to meet that increasing demand.
U.S. wine exports to China grew by 42 percent last year, but the surge in sales of counterfeits in China threatens to undermine future export growth. Loss of consumer confidence in the authenticity of wines sold in China has the potential to sink U.S. exports of ice wine before they truly take off.
I also am concerned about Chinese fakes finding their way into the U.S. market. Counterfeit, adulterated or mislabeled wines pose serious health and safety risks to consumers and I urge you to continue enforcement efforts targeting counterfeits.
U.S. wineries and New York ice wine producers cannot fight the sale of counterfeit, mislabeled wines alone. For this reason, I respectfully request that you work with Chinese officials to crackdown on companies producing and selling counterfeit and mislabeled wine. I also ask that you work with Chinese officials to educate consumers about the importance of buying authentic, high-end wines and the dangers of counterfeits. In these tough economic times, we cannot stand idly by while cheap Chinese fakes hurt U.S. wine producers’ bottom line and undermine their ability to grow exports.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I ask that you please keep me apprised of developments on this issue.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator