Victory for Bordeaux Wine in China

13th September 2021

When is a Bordeaux not a Bordeaux? When it’s made in China (or anywhere outside of the Bordeaux region of France) of course! We review a landmark victory in China for Bordeaux wine.

The Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) (which represents over 7,000 producers in Bordeaux) recently secured a landmark victory in China to prevent the sale of counterfeit wine bearing the Bordeaux name, following a decade long battle.

Historically it has proven exceptionally difficult to enforce protected characteristics in China, but criminal proceedings have now been successfully brought against a counterfeiter who was sentenced to 18 months in prison on 4 June 2020, by the court of Pudong in Shanghai.  The counterfeiter had (somewhat foolishly) showcased their “Bordeaux” product at the Chengdu Wine Fair in March 2019. On the grounds of trademark infringement involving nearly 10,000 bottles the producer was also fined around £12,000 and the counterfeiter £6,000.

China has become Bordeaux’s largest and most profitable market (representing more than 40% of annual exports), attracting copycat producers selling products under the Bordeaux name. Since 2011 CIVB has applied intellectual property rights for nearly 50 of Bordeaux’s Protected Geographical Indications (PGI) in China.

In a statement CIVB president Bernard Farges said:

The CIVB congratulates the determination of the Chinese authorities in bringing this case to a successful conclusion. This victory for the Bordeaux wine industry serves as an encouragement for the CIVB to continue its work to prevent the counterfeiting phenomenon in China.

A salutary lesson marking the importance of PGIs and, whilst it is remains unclear as to whether UK producers will continue to benefit from their regional PGIs post-Brexit (see “Geographical indications in the UK after Brexit: An uncertain future?” Craig Prescotta, Manuela Pilatob and Claudio Belliac for more information on this), this decision highlights the need to retain that protection.