Piracy is a growing problem for Australian winemakers taking advantage of the booming Chinese market, the head of one of WA's biggest wineries says.
China has become a key market for WA wines in the past year with 2.3 million litres valued at $15.5 million exported, according to Wine Australia - an increase of 89 per cent in value on the year before.
But Sandalford Wines chief executive Grant Brinklow said brand hijacking was a worrying trend facing many growers.
"Take a strong brand like Penfolds," he said. "These people create a label that looks identical and call it Benfolds," Mr Brinklow said. "There is an ongoing growth in the rate of brand pirating and hijacking up there. They replicate it or vary it and take it for their own."
He said the Federal Government needed to work with the industry to protect wine brands and ensure the significant efforts and investments Australian wineries had made were not undermined.
"It's a problem the Australian industry has not faced anywhere else," Mr Brinklow said.
Wine Australia's quarterly wine export approvals report, released yesterday, also shows China is the number one destination for wines valued at more than $7.50 a litre - ahead of the US and Canada.
Red wines are most popular at 87 per cent of total exports - a trend industry figures attribute to perceived health benefits of a good red.
With many wineries struggling because of the high Australian dollar and a local oversupply, the growth in Chinese demand comes at a good time.
Swan Valley's Garbin Estate Wines now exports much of its product to China.
"They see Australian wine as being clean and green," winemaker Peter Garbin said.
"There's a big oversupply of Australian wines, so it's hard to compete if you stay in the local market."The winery maintains a cellar door but Mr Garbin said local sales were quiet.