Wealthy snap up more French wineries

Number of Bordeaux vineyards owned by Chinese rises to 83 from three in five-year span

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 4:27am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 4:27am

Chinese wine connoisseurs have been known to pay top dollar for good wine, and they're showing a taste for acquiring Bordeaux's renowned vineyards.

Pierre Goguet, president of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, said the number of Chinese-owned vineyards in the area synonymous with the red quaff had grown to 83 from three in the span of just five years.

And Chinese wealth is said to be behind an additional 30 transactions in progress.

One reason the investors were acquiring the vineyards was to make wine for export to the mainland, said a visitor at Vinexpo, a wine trade fair in Hong Kong that ends today.

But tourism is also fuelling many of the deals. As Chinese tourists flock to French wine-producing regions, Chinese entrepreneurs want to market the chateau experience to luxury-loving tourists.

The Bordeaux chamber said the number of Chinese visitors had grown by one-fourth over the past four years. Many of the tourists had their interest in vineyards whetted by the growing popularity of wine culture on the mainland.

France as a whole received a record of 1.4 million visitors from China last year. It was part of the surge in Chinese outbound tourists, which reached 97.3 million last year, 14 million more than two years earlier.

Bordeaux is capitalising on the opportunity. A project touting wine's civilising influence - Cite des civilisations du vin - is scheduled to open in 2016.

A high-speed railway will shuttle wine enthusiasts from Paris to Bordeaux by 2017.

Goguet said a major Hong Kong-based hotel chain had shown interest in expanding in the city of Bordeaux "upon further evaluation of visitor growth".

Bordeaux has about 8,000 wine estates. About 5 per cent are owned by foreign investors.

But the proportion of Chinese-owned estates remains small. There were few acquisitions tied to the most renowned chateaux.

Mainland film star Zhao Wei bought Chateau Monlot in 2011. The transaction price was not disclosed, but local property agents estimated the value at between €4 million and €5 million (HK$52.9 million).

The Chinese appetite for foreign wines has slowed over the past two years, with wine imports dipping 6.8 per cent in value, to US$2.4 billion last year.

In the first three months of the year, total import value declined a further 26.2 per cent, to 3.09 billion yuan, with some observers suggesting Beijing's crackdown on lavish official banquets is partly to blame.