“Around 20” Chateaux Bought By Chinese Individuals & Companies In Last 5 Years
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.
As Alexander Hall, director of Vineyard Intelligence, a Bordeaux-based consultancy, said last spring, recent acquisitions of Bordeaux chateaux like Chateaux de Viaud, Latour Laguens, Laffitte Chenu and Richelieu could just be the tip of the iceberg. Said Hall, “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.” According to Cici Dong, head of the Asia-Pacific desk at Savills, this expected boom is starting to gain pace, as “around 20 [Bordeaux] chateaux have been bought by Chinese businessmen and even a government-owned company” over the past five years.
As Dong went on to tell China Daily, for many Chinese buyers, a French vineyard is “a status symbol and sign of ‘good taste.'” Despite growing interest in other wine-growing regions like Burgundy, many Chinese investors see Bordeaux a more established “brand name” back in China. “This,” Dong explained, “is why they are keen to acquire property there rather than going to other wine-producing areas such as Italy and Spain despite better bargains.”
Though some Chinese investors are hoping to turn their chateaux into hotels for wine tourists from China, others are hoping to leverage the existing staff to create a product they can sell mostly, or completely, in China. As the Telegraph wrote last year, a growing number of 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, purchased Château Laulan Ducos, a centuries-old, 22-hectare estate in Médoc country with an annual output of 150,000 bottles, in March 2011. Interestingly, Shen wasted no time in making overtures to his home market since finalizing his sale, announcing plans to sell his wine at all of TESiRO’s 400 jewelry stores throughout the country and securing actress Zhang Ziyi as the “face” of Château Laulan Ducos in China.