June 21, 2011

Chinese-Owned Bordeaux Chateau Looks East

Richard Shen Of Chinese Jewelry Chain TESiRO Purchased Chateau Laulan Ducos In March 2011

Richard Shen and the new "face" of Chateau Laulan Ducos, Zhang Ziyi

Richard Shen and the new "face" of Chateau Laulan Ducos, Zhang Ziyi

Over the last few years, Chinese investors have been on the hunt for vineyards around the world, looking to secure a steady supply of high-quality raw materials while boosting the legitimacy of their wine-making businesses among China’s burgeoning oenophiles. While industry giants like COFCO have their sights set on vineyards in Chile, Australia and the United States, perhaps nowhere is the Chinese presence more pronounced at the moment than Bordeaux, France. With China surpassing Germany and the UK to become the Bordeaux’s largest export market, and Bordeaux mainstays like Château Lafite, Château Latour and (increasingly) Château d’Yquem becoming the bottles of choice for Chinese collectors, gift givers and show-offs alike, it’s no surprise Chinese buyers have swept into the region.

And sweep in they have: As Bordeaux Undiscovered pointed out this spring, six established Bordeaux chateaux have been bought out by Chinese investors in recent years, including Chateaux de Viaud, Latour Laguens, Laffitte Chenu and Richelieu. And as the Guardian noted in March, this could just be the tip of the iceberg:

Three properties have been sold this year, three others – including Château Richelieu, former home to the infamous cardinal’s favourite mistress – are already in Chinese hands. Land agents report a surge in the number of Chinese investors looking to buy, said Alexander Hall, director of Vineyard Intelligence, a Bordeaux-based consultancy. “The number of sales is small but over the last year agents have seen a huge number of enquiries. The real boom could be in two years’ time.”

Shen and Zhang pose at the vineyard

Shen and Zhang pose at the vineyard

Observers of the Chinese chateau-buying spree have widely noted that the new buyers intend to be very much China-focused with their new trophy properties. As the Telegraph recently wrote, Chinese buyers in Bordeaux “are buying up entire vineyards to ensure they get what they want…then sending the domain’s entire production to China.”

One of these buyers who intends to send the entirety of his wine exclusively to China, Richard Shen (Shen Dongjun, 沈东军), owner of the Chinese jewelry chain TESiRO, recently purchased Château Laulan Ducos, a centuries-old, 22-hectare estate in Médoc country with an annual output of 150,000 bottles. Interestingly, Shen has wasted no time in making overtures to his home market since finalizing his sale in March, announcing he plans to sell his wine at all of TESiRO’s 400 jewelry stores throughout the country and, more recently, securing actress Zhang Ziyi as the “face” of Château Laulan Ducos in China.

Shortly after her appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, Zhang visited the chateaux for a promotional photo shoot with Richard Shen. As iFeng (Chinese) suggested, Shen’s decision to tap a well-known celebrity like Zhang laid bare his China marketing strategy: “For one thing, it’s designed to connote high-end status in the domestic market, and for another, it’s supposed to show the brand’s determination to be seen as a leader in the imported wine market.”

iFeng adds that Shen’s plans for promoting his chateau and wines in China include everything from consumer education courses at the vineyard to an official Sina Weibo account. Whether Shen’s plan for massive exposure in China will enrich or dilute the Laulan Ducos name remains to be seen, and if nothing else it’ll be a valuable case study in terms of the reaction China’s Bordeaux lovers have to Chinese-owned French wine — and whether the new Chinese owners of a French chateau can maintain (or even improve) the quality of the product.

Shen and Zhang pose in the cellar

Shen and Zhang pose in the chateau's cellar


Business & Finance / Culture / Food, Wine, & Spirits / Real Estate
Tag: bordeaux, celebrity endorsement, chateau, chateau lafite... , More
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