Bordeaux Stalwart Looking To Increase Local Knowledge
Tipped as one of the contenders to become “the next Lafite” in China, as the tastes of the country’s burgeoning wine aficionado shows a gradual broadening, Bordeaux heavyweight Château Margaux recently announced the hiring of a new business development manager in Shanghai to better understand and grow in the rapidly changing market. Hit by rampant counterfeiting in mainland China, rising ubiquity, and a perhaps unfair perception as a wine for the country’s newly wealthy, Lafite’s reputation has taken a tumble in the Greater China region over the past year, leading many regional buyers to seek out other “big name” wines to fill out their collections.
As Burgundy darlings like Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC) and other Bordeaux stalwarts like perennial status symbol Château Pétrus make inroads among Chinese collectors and investors alike, Margaux’s new move is its biggest strategic personnel effort since appointing Thibault Pontallier brand ambassador in Hong Kong in 2010. That move was the first time in the château’s history that it sent a representative to be based outside of France.
Margaux’s new Chinese brand development manager, Zheng Fangyuan, will — according to the drinks business — “assist the first growth with its sales, maintain the relationship with its importers and train the retailers’ sales teams.” In addition to building the brand in the Chinese Mainland and learning more about what China’s emerging top-tier wine drinker is looking for, Zheng will work closely with Thibault Pontallier. Said Zheng, “The presence and work of Thibault Pontallier, the brand ambassador in Asia, for almost three years now, has allowed Château Margaux to reach a very favourable position there…I will make sure to pursue, with him, what he has started, further strengthening our relationships with Château Margaux importers.”
Château Margaux’s efforts to tap the growing China wine market — which is currently the world’s fifth-largest — have grown steadily in recent years as Premier Cru peers like Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Haut-Brion and Mouton Rothschild have also become auction favorites for mainland Chinese bidders in Hong Kong. In addition to appointing Pontallier and Zheng in their China-based positions, Margaux has made recent strategic moves in China such as formally registering the company’s official Chinese name (玛歌酒庄), launching a Chinese-language website, and creating a “bubble tag” security system aimed at warding off counterfeiters and assuaging collector fears of fakes.