By Zhang Xuanchen | 2010-12-25 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
HEBEI Province shut down nearly 30 wineries yesterday after wines made there were exposed on television as not only adulterated, but also falsely labeled.
The local government acted after a state television program on Thursday evening showed that some wines made in the province's Changli County contained just 20 percent fermented grape juice - the rest was sugar water mixed with chemicals, including coloring agents and flavorings.
Hebei Governor Chen Quanguo ordered an investigation later that night at an emergency provincial government meeting, Xinhua news agency reported.
Chen said at the meeting that Changli wine makers whose wine was not up to standard would have their production licenses revoked, and they should recall their products immediately.
Acting on the China Central Television report, authorities in Beijing, which borders Hebei, also shut one of the capital's major beverage wholesale markets for selling bogus wine from Changli. The Huilongguan market in north Beijing had dozens of booths involved in the wholesale wine trade, CCTV said.
Changli County has nearly 100 wineries and is also known as a distribution center for wine products.
It produces a third of China's domestic grape wine and gained fame as China's Bordeaux, but now faces losing its reputation after CCTV reporters revealed several plants were churning out counterfeit wine tagged as world-renowned brands.
At some wineries, CCTV reporters found workers filling hundreds of bottles with bogus wine under the very surveillance cameras supposed to be connected to the county's quality watchdog agency.
TV pictures clearly showed workers sticking false labels on bottles at the Jiahua Winery. Asked to comment, sales manager Cheng Heming told a CCTV reporter: "No problem. No problem. I don't care (about punishment), but why do you care?"
CCTV claimed that Jiahua sold about 2.4 million bottles of the bogus wine each year.
Wang Jingyu, a sales manager of Genghao Beverage Co in Changli, told CCTV that only 20 percent of a bottle of fake wine was fermented grape juice while the rest was sugar water mixed with chemicals.
Some may not even contain wine at all but were merely a mix of flavored water, Wang added.
The fake wine is often inexpensive, sold at prices as low as 5 yuan (75 US cents) a bottle to wholesalers, but it could be resold at a higher price to end customers, especially when it came in bottles with foreign labels, CCTV said.
Huang Weidong, a leading industry expert, said the additives could cause health problems ranging from headaches and heart disease to cancer. According to Chinese law, wine should be made from 100 percent fermented grape juice.
Liquor sales are booming in the country as New Year's Day and China's traditional Spring Festival approaches.