More Bad News on Chinese Wine

chineseA few months ago I posted an article about the Chinese wine industry, after the People’s Daily reported that China had become the w0rld’s sixth largest wine producer by volume. I thought that sounded potentially scary, given China’s recent record of product tampering, tainting, and all-around inferior quality.

Here’s a short quote from my article: “Their wine could be like their toothpaste (contaminated with DEG, a solvent used in anti-freeze), dog food (contaminated with melamine that killed American pets), or seafood (farmed in raw sewage and rejected by the FDA), to name just a few incidents of dangerously unhealthy products.  And let’s not even get into the electrical products that burned down houses, baby carriers that dumped kids on their heads, and circular saws that sawed fingers instead of lumber.”

OK, so I was painting all of  Chinese business with a very broad brush. Maybe too broad a brush, I thought — until today, when I read a post in another (very good) wine blog called Vinography. Alder Yarrow said that “the (Chinese) government is shutting down some wineries and pulling wine from the shelves after finding a whole lot of faked, adulterated, and chemically altered wine on the market.”

And we’re not talking just a little bit of doctoring: “One local sales manager admitted that the wines contained only 20 per cent fermented grape juice, with the rest made up of sugar water and chemicals including colouring additives and citric acid, Xinhua News Agency reported.” (from Today Online)

Furthermore, “The newspaper quoted a leading industry expert, Huang Weidong, as saying the additives could cause cardiac irregularities and headaches, and were possibly carcinogenic.” (from AFP)

Holy Cow: This is dangerous stuff! And it’s not the only irregularity in the Chinese wine industry. Another major issue is that anywhere from 12% to 40% of “Chinese” wine is made with bulk juice imported from countries such as Chile, Argentina and Australia, and then blended with some domestic juice and labeled as Chinese wine.

There are several big losers in this situation: First, the wine industry executives who made the doctored wine, who’ve been hauled off to Chinese prisons; next, the Chinese wine-drinking public who’ve been duped, poisoned, or both; and last but not least, the Chinese wine industry itself. It’s certainly possible to create a viable wine industry if serious grape growers and winemakers are allowed to learn about their regions, their grapes and their craft and gradually create a sound infrastructure and quality products. But that process has been sabotaged by unscrupulous idiots who tried to take a short-cut.

Let’s hope that the bad apples have been tossed out of the barrel, and that better days are ahead for Chinese winemakers, and wine drinkers. Cheers!

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