November 22

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A new ally in the fight against counterfeit wine – the online retailer Alibaba

In early 2015, Wine Spectator questioned how serious the Chinese government was at addressing the problem of counterfeit wines and pointed to Alibaba’s site as a major culprit in promoting the sale of counterfeit bottles. A clever solution implemented by producers and brokers back then was the award of exclusive distribution rights within the country.  Allowing certain retailers the sole right to sales in the territory gave consumers the peace of mind in purchasing authentic products… thwarting the efforts of bootleggers who were forced to sell outside those retail accounts.  And it appears Alibaba utilized a variant of this paradigm in its original plans for its Wine Direct platform.

Recently Alibaba made good on its new leaf in fighting online counterfeits.  As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Alibaba it helped Chinese authorities round up 14,000 bottles of fake wine which were being sold through Alibaba controlled sites to restaurants and consumers.

The subtle irony of China cracking down on counterfeit products when many Chinese merchants make a living selling low-cost knock-offs to the U.S. through Ebay and Amazon was apparently lost on the perpetrators.  They subscribe to the “no harm-no foul” approach and have a different bar for what would be “fake” in this context – leaving that definition for inedible or non-alcoholic potations:

Chinese reporters were given access to Mr Dai in detention, where he told them Mr Su had sourced red wine from overseas and re-bottled it in China, “so they are not fake wines, they bring no hard to the human body”. “I told customers the price is very cheap but the quality is not that good. They were willing to buy.”

Let’s hope this Chinese action is the first in a long line of protections afforded to producers capitalizing on global markets.