Master of wine Jeannie Cho Lee could tell instantly when she tasted fake wine at a Hong Kong dinner party.

“Just from the colour and nose, (it was wrong); once you taste it, it was confirmation that it wasn’t the genuine wine,” she said.

But not everyone possesses Lee’s acumen. China’s booming appetite for fine wine in recent years has fuelled a counterfeit market that industry insiders fear could be turning local buyers off.

Ian Ford of Summergate Fine Wines in Shanghai said that counterfeiters were taking advantage of inexperienced Asian consumers.

China has become the fifth-largest consumer of wine, ahead of Britain, an International Wine and Spirit Research study shows. It forecasts 54 percent growth from 2011 to 2015 – equal to about 1 billion more bottles.

That means supply and demand in the Chinese market could have a big effect on global prices.

The cost of high-end wines was down 20 percent year on year last month, according to the Liv-ex 50 index, which tracks Bordeaux wines. Some believe fake wine may have played a role by denting Chinese consumers’ confidence in the product.

Thomas Gearing of Cult Wines, a London wine investment firm, said: “As someone has their fingers burnt by buying counterfeit wine, they are going to lose their desire” to buy it again. – Reuters