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French wine maker toasts 6 court wins in China

By Gao Ceng (Shanghai Daily)

08:59, March 16, 2012

Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, the French estate that produces some of the world's most expensive wines, has won six lawsuits against Chinese companies since fake Lafite was found flooding the Chinese market.

The Chinese companies have been ordered to pay a total of at least 800,000 yuan (US$126,984) in compensation, the company told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

Among the six cases, Shenzhen-based Jinhongde Trade Co Ltd was ordered to pay 300,000 yuan in two cases decided by the Higher People's Court in Hunan Province last August.

On November 30 last year, a court in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, ordered Shenzhen Zhuangshi Industry Co Ltd to pay 500,000 yuan after verdicts in two cases.

Last April, Zhuhai La Fei Te Wine Co Ltd was ordered by Chengdu High-Tech Zone People's Court to pay 50,000 yuan for trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Lafite didn't reveal details of the other two cases, which were "settled with compensation paid by the defendant."

By the end of last year, the company had filed more 160 trademark lawsuits against companies trying to benefit from Lafite's reputation and 5,000 bottles of fake wine had been seized by police and market watchdogs, the company said. "If things go well, with the cooperation of the Chinese government, fake Lafite will be eradicated within two years," Christophe Salian, CEO of Chateaux Lafite Rothschild, said in Shanghai yesterday.

The amount of wine passing itself off as Lafite in China has been a major challenge, the French company said, not just in grabbing market share but also harming the brand's reputation.

It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of Chateaux Lafite Rothschild in China is fake.

China's annual quota of Lafite wine from France is around 50,000 bottles while the Lafite consumption in Zhejiang Province alone last year was around 30,0000 bottles, China Central Television reported.

The French wine maker began construction of its first Asian production base in east China's Shandong Province earlier this week. Domaines Barons de Rothschild, Chateau Lafite's parent company, teamed up with CITIC, China's largest state-owned investment company, to build the base in Penglai.

"If the Lafite wine can be made domestically, the price is believed to be much more affordable and that to a great extent helps consumers become more discerning," said Shanghai wine consultant Grace Zheng.

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