Chinese wine-savvy tycoons snap up Bordeaux chateaux

By Suzanne Mustacich, AFP

BORDEAUX–The world’s largest producer of alcohol from goji berries and an elusive tycoon have become the latest super rich Chinese investors to invest in Bordeaux wine estates. Already a prized investment for the increasingly wine-savvy Chinese, five more chateaux in the heart of France’s most renowned wine country have been snapped up in the past few weeks. Zhang Jinshan, 48, founder of the Ningxia Hong group based in northwestern China, bought Chateau du Grand Moueys from its German owner on Friday. Grand Moueys is a sprawling, 170-hectare (420-acre) estate near the village of Capian in Bordeaux’s Entre-Deux-Mers region. On the other side of the village, Qu Nai Jie, the president of the Haichang Group, bought another historical gem, Chateau de Grand Branet and three more in the region: Chateau Branda, Chateau Laurette, and Chateau Thebot.

Qu had already acquired Chateau Chenu Lafitte in 2010, and according to the manager of Grand Branet, is actively pursuing further acquisitions. In and around Bordeaux, more than 12 chateaux are in various stages of acquisition by Chinese investors, according to the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce (CCIB), which operates a China desk to assist would-be investors in the region. Real estate agent Eric Groux of Conseil Patrimoine in Paris has been selling chateaux for several years with clients in Hong Kong, China and Singapore. Chinese customers prefer relatively unknown estates in modest “appellations” — the approved wine-growing areas. “They can buy a chateau with vineyards for the price of a Paris apartment,” Groux said. Last November, Groux brokered the sale of Chateau Monlot, a seven-hectare Saint Emilion grand cru, to actress Zhao Wei and her husband for some 4 million euros (US$5.4 million). “They fell in love with the estate and are passionate about wine,” said the former owner Bernard Rivals, who as part of the deal will remain at the estate for two years, helping them in their new role as Bordeaux chateau owners. But the Chinese are not just buying wine estates as novelty holiday homes, many of them are serious about wine as a craft and as a business.