by Joe Siccardi
Reveille Between the Lakes
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stopped at Sheldrake Point Winery, Ovid, Friday May 4 to affirm his intentions to urge the federal government to pressure China to crack down on its counterfeit wines that are flooding the fast-growing and profitable Chinese wine market and keeping high-quality Finger Lakes wines from competing with these cheap fakes.
Schumer said he has been in contact with the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Customs and Border Protection and several other federal agencies to pressure China to crack down on cheap Chinese counterfeit wines. He has already initiated conversations with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to ensure New York’s high-quality ice wines have the opportunity to meet the increasing demand of the fastest growing wine market in the world. He said he was asked them to exert pressure on the Chinese government. “If we can stop counterfeiting before it starts, we have a chance,” Schumer said. “Once they start, it will be too late.”
Ice wines are a luxury in China, Schumer said, but Canadian exports have already been counterfeited by substituting an inferior wine with a premium label. “That’s what we want to stop,” the senator emphasized. Several Canadian ice wine makers have seen their business slow due to the counterfeiting of their product, and New York wineries are hesitant to enter this market knowing the same could happen to them. Schumer also highlighted his concern that Chinese fakes may be infiltrating the U.S. wine market, and urged the federal government to crack down on mislabeled or counterfeit wines that pose health risks to consumers and harm Finger Lakes wine producers’ bottom line.
He said the ice wine market is new for New York wineries like Sheldrake Point. Schumer said wineries are eager to sell wine in China, where authentic ice wine can sell at nearly $200 a bottle, in order to grow their business and add jobs. However, counterfeit Chinese wines are flooding this profitable market and effectively blocking Finger Lakes wineries from the huge profits that access to the Chinese wine market could provide.
“As the wine market in China grows at a rapid rate, it should be ripe for the picking for Rochester/Finger Lakes winemakers so that they can make major profits and expand their businesses. But, cheap Chinese counterfeit wines are rigging the game and make it impossible for wineries like Sheldrake Point to enter and compete in the profitable market in China,” said Schumer. “Authentic ice wine presents a massive business opportunity for wineries, but cheap Chinese counterfeits flood the market, and make it difficult for real ice wine to compete. That’s why I’m calling on the federal government to pressure China to put a cork in their counterfeit ice wines, so that New York wineries can compete fair and square, and benefit from exports to China’s flourishing wine market.”
Schumer noted in China the middle class is growing rapidly, and as it grows it is drastically increasing the demand for authentic wines. Schumer pointed out it is also important for the U.S. and Chinese governments to work together to educate the growing Chinese middle class on how to spot counterfeit wines. Some experts project anywhere between 50% to 80% of ice wines currently found on Chinese shelves are fake, which not only hurts the Chinese consumer but also hurts authentic ice wine producers like those in New York, Canada, and Germany.
By cracking down on counterfeit ice wines Schumer said he had serious concern regarding the potential for Chinese counterfeit ice wine to enter the U.S. market. These wines could be contaminated, altered, mislabeled or otherwise unsafe for the health and safety of American consumers. What’s more, these wines could pose a threat to the business of both the wineries that the counterfeits imitate, and the winemakers that produce authentic wine products, at a potentially higher price that matches their quality compared to Chinese fakes.
Schumer was joined by Sheldrake Point Winery owner Bob Madill, Executive Director of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation Jim Trezise, local Seneca County officials, including Board Chair Robert Hayssen of Varick, Board Members Chuck Lafler of Seneca Falls and Walt Prouty of Ovid, County Manager Mitch Rowe, former Ovid Supervisor David Dresser, Industrial Development Agency Executive Director Bob Aronson, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jeff Shipley, and representatives from various wineries on the Cayuga Lake Wine trail.
The senator also spent some time informally listening to concerns county officials have. Some of the topics broached included Indian issues, with Schumer stating flatly the Carcieri fix “won’t happen.” He also promised to look into the cigarette making operations by the Cayugas and others and said he would check with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms whether these enterprises are sanctioned.
Other topics discussed included fracking, economic development, Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery, BonaDent and new businesses at the former depot.
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