French wine giant Castel Frères, the third largest wine group in the world, has been handed a fine in mainland China for violating advertising law, sounding an alarm for wineries that are using superlative languages in promotions.
According to Shanghai’s market watchdog, Castel Frères’ Chinese company was fined RMB 200,000 (US$30,929) for using phrases such as “best ripeness”, “best quality” and “most advanced technology” in advertisement that violated the Advertising Law of People’s Republic of China.
In Article 9 (3), it states that words such as “State level”, “highest level” or “the best” etc. should be prohibited in advertisement.
This is the first case of the year that penalized a foreign winery for advertising language, signaling that China is tightening up on alcoholic beverage’s marketing and promotion to crack down on false advertising.
At this stage, it’s unclear where Castel placed the ad and how it caught market regulator’s attention, but it’s not unusual to browse through many wineries’ websites to find such languages using “best” and “most optimal” either for Chinese or foreign-invested wineries.
According to Chinese advertising law, use of Chinese leaders, or showing actions of drinking or using medical terms in wine advertising is strictly forbidden.
Late last year, a Chinese wine merchant was penalized for using Chairman Mao’s quote to promote Georgian wine. Two years ago, another Chinese wine company was fined for using images of drinking for an ad on e-commerce platform JD.com.
Established in 1949 by nine siblings, Castel is the No.1 producer of wines in France and Europe and third largest in the world, with a presence in 140 companies including China. It owns 20 wineries in Bordeaux, Languedoc, Provence and Loire, majority of which are in Bordeaux including fourth growth Château Beychevelle in Saint Julien.
Last month, the French wine giant is thrust in the center of another scandal where its subsidiary Somdiaa was accused to be involved in aiding militia accused of mass atrocities in Central African Republic in exchange for the security of its sugar assets, according to The Sentry.
Castel is also a major bottling partner for Coca-Cola in parts of Africa. The report has prompted the wine group to launch a probe into Somdiaa’s business dealings.
Castel’s Chinese company was created in 2013 and is 100% owned by Castel Frères.