The Rothschilds, defying counterfeiters, make a wine in China

Business & Technology

Since the 19th century, members of the Rothschild family have run and owned the Bordeaux estate Château Lafite Rothschild. There — and at other vineyards the family has acquired — their company Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) makes some of the world’s most expensive wines — $919 a bottle is the average price, according to Wine Searcher.

The high price and the Rothschild name have made Château Lafite Rothschild (拉菲红酒 lāfēi hóngjiǔ) unquestionably the most famous wine brand in the Middle Kingdom, and a status symbol for China’s rich.

In 2012, the BBC reported that China imports some 50,000 bottles of the stuff every year. This naturally means that there are also a lot of counterfeits. That same BBC report is primarily about police in Wenzhou finding a house with 10,000 bottles of the fake stuff in it. “At least half the Chateau Lafite sold in China is fake,” according to a government official quoted in this Decanter article. However, the BBC reported a figure of 70 percent.

The counterfeiters have not kept the Rothschilds away from China. The Financial Times and Decanter report that 10 years after acquiring land in Shandong Province, Château Lafite Rothschild is launching a wine grown and fermented in China.

The new wine will be called Lóng Dài 珑岱, which its makers say is “inspired by the Taishan sacred mountain in Shandong.” The character 岱 is an alternate form of Taishan. You can read the Rothschilds’ slightly pretentious story of the name on their website:

The choice for the name Long Dai came from the family’s wish to find an identity that could show how this wine is the perfect balance between nature, and the care of men and women who have helped it reveal its best potential. It was also important to find a name that showed tribute to Shandong’s exceptional local history. Inspired by the Taishan sacred mountain in Shandong, Long Dai represents an idealized mountain that rose through the power of nature and was then carefully chiseled by human hands. Our choice of name describes what we do as winemakers: try to perfect the raw materials provided by nature.

1,100 yuan ($160) is the price, and 30,000 bottles of the 2017 vintage will be on the market on September 19 this year. The vineyard expects to produce around 50,000 bottles in future years.

The labels were printed “under heavy security and many a non-disclosure agreement, in Bordeaux,” to stop counterfeiters, according to the FT, and they “are impossible to detach from the bottle, and the foil over the neck is lined with a banknote-quality anti-counterfeit graphic.”

China is not the only market: The FT says that “they plan to target Chinese expatriate communities in places such as Vancouver and Sydney toward the end of the year.”

If you’re interested in wine in China, you might like the website Grape Wall of China.