Prominent Australian winemaker Penfolds has been caught in an international PR storm, as claims of fake Penfolds products flooding the market prove to be, well, fake.
The Australian Financial Review (AFR) recently reported on several Chinese media and social media sites claiming to have uncovered fake Penfolds-branded wines being sold in China and issuing tips on how to identify these fakes from the real deal.
However, a spokesperson from Treasury Wine Estates (TWE), the listed winemaker which owns Penfolds, said these stories are actually the fakes ones.
My Business contacted the company for clarification on the situation, however they did not respond to direct questions, and instead issued a pre-prepared statement.
“Recent online [story] related to suspected counterfeit Penfolds products sold in the China market ... disseminated and reposted across WeChat and online media channels in China contains extremely misleading and inaccurate information relating to Treasury Wine Estates (TWE), the Penfolds brand owned by TWE, and TWE's business partners,” the statement said.
“TWE hereby clarifies the following points:
• Any reference to suspected counterfeit Penfolds wines sold on e-commerce platforms such as JD.Com and other sales channels, including imagery used as part of the article, are completely incorrect and unsubstantiated.
• Any references to TWE's employees and strategies in relation to brand protection are completely false and unsubstantiated
• Any references to the product import value and volume of TWE and Penfolds in the China market are inaccurate
• Any references to propriety Penfolds packaging features for brand protection and authenticity measures are incorrect”
China is known to be a major export market for Penfolds, however the spokesperson would not comment on the exact size of its exports, stating “we never share breakdown of volumes sold in specific markets by brand.”
Yet it alluded to the significance of Chinese sales in its statement, threatening legal action against media outlets in China – something TWE has a history of doing.
“TWE maintains its right to pursue legal actions against media outlets reporting on false information about the company, and has proven to be successful in regards to these types of actions in the past year in China,” the statement said.
As the AFR story points out, confusion about the legitimacy of popular foreign products such as Penfolds may have a serious impact on Chinese sales.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.