Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe First Classified Growth Sold To Chinese Buyer
As the popularity of Bordeaux wines among Chinese consumers stays high and Chinese companies and wealthy investors continue to invest in Bordeaux châteaux — roughly 20 have found new Chinese owners in the last four years — China’s presence in the famed wine-growing region is becoming ever larger. Over the last few years, looking to bolster their overseas investments, boost the legitimacy of their wine-making operations back home and secure a steady supply of quality raw materials, Chinese investors have been on the hunt for vineyards around the world.
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 France in general and Bordeaux in particular. With China surpassing Germany and the UK to become 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.
Now, according to Decanter, the latest property, Chateau Bellefont-Belcier, a Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe, is set to be sold to a Chinese metal industrialist — making this property the first classified growth ever to be acquired by a Chinese investor. Pending final approval, the Bellefont-Belcier deal steps in line with a number of other recent Chinese purchases in the region, including Chateau Millaud Montlabert, also in Saint Emilion, the tenth estate to be bought by the Haichang Group (others include Branda and Chenu Lafitte) and the 12.5ha Chateau Lucas in Cotes de Castillon, which was purchased by Chinese architect Wencheng Li, owner of Wencheng Castle near Beijing.
Mediated by Franck Lagorce Conseil, a land management consultancy based in Bordeaux, the 13ha Chateau Bellefont-Belcier, which has been on the market for quite some time now, is projected to go for between €1-2 million per hectare, the standard price point for a classified estate in Saint Emilion. Although awaiting final approval from SAFER, the government land agency that verifies all deals involving agricultural land holdings, Lagorce told Decanter.com that “a serious offer has been accepted for the estate.”
While the Chinese presence in Bordeaux has largely been met with ambivalence — a peaceful alternative to the minor uproars erupting in Burgundy — Lagorce did confirm that the purchaser intends to keep the existing commercial structure of the chateau in place, selling through the négociant system of the Place de Bordeaux, a preservation position that a number of Chinese investors are adopting to ensure smooth acquisitions. When speaking of the unnamed investor, Lagorce encouraged that “he has a great respect for the system of Bordeaux.” While Bordeaux may already be well acclimated to the shifts in foreign ownership (as American, British, and Japanese investors have long taken stakes in the market), discretion and respect for the chateau and its heritage remain a must, especially when the piece of the pie is a Grand Cru Classé.