Police raids in Jiangsu province uncovered more than 8,000 bottles of counterfeit Penfolds wines as part of a larger anti-fraud investigation spanning several regions of China, reported the Vino-Joy publication, citing local media.
A workshop suspected of producing imitation Penfolds wines was also discovered, alongside and tens of thousands of other items, from packaging to trademark logos. Six people were arrested, the publication said.
Australia’s Penfolds has a long-standing and strong reputation in China, despite supplies being curtailed more recently due to government tariffs.
It’s one of several high-profile international wine brands that have been targeted by counterfeiters.
In the most recent case, Decanter understands that intellectual property experts at Penfolds owner Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) helped Chinese authorities to verify suspicious bottles as counterfeit.
TWE has stepped up its anti-counterfeiting operations since 2017, in an effort to protect its brands in all markets, not just China.
The firm’s global director of intellectual property, Anna Olsen, said this week, ‘Treasury Wine Estates treats the protection of its intellectual property rights as a top priority and takes a zero tolerance approach to infringement.
‘We continue to prioritise and make significant investments in our global brand protection and anti-counterfeiting programme across all markets, including China.’
TWE has developed relationships with government authorities, industry bodies and leading online marketplaces, including becoming a member of ecommerce platform Alibaba’s ‘Anti-Counterfeiting Alliance’.
Supplies of genuine Penfolds to China have fallen sharply in the past year after the country’s Ministry of Commerce imposed restrictive tariffs on Australian wine imports.
TWE has been hit with combined tariffs of 175.6% on the value of its wines, packaged in containers of two litres or less, entering Mainland China, the group said in its interim results announcement in February.
Shares in TWE recently rose, however, after the company managed to partially offset tariffs by selling more wine to other markets.
Paul Rayner, TWE chairman, said in October last year, ‘We remain committed to the China market for the long-term and continue to invest in our team, our brands and our relationships with customers and consumers.’
TWE confirmed to Decanter that it is planning to debut a Penfolds ‘French Collection’, to be released worldwide – including in China – as part of the company’s new Penfolds Global Collection launch later this year.