China continues to snap up French wineries
HONG KONG, July 31 — China's passion for drinking French wine seems unquenchable but what seems to be growing just as fast is a fierce desire to actually own the ground from which the wine is grown.
Last year the Chinese government said that French still wines accounted for 49 per cent of the country's imported wine market — a seven-fold increase in just five years.
To highlight just how much the Chinese love their French wine, China Customs also said that while overall wine imports to the country had slowed in 2012 (year-on-year), French imports had bucked the overall trend in the first quarter, accounting for 59.9 per cent of the 6.44m cases of wine that had come in to China.
Bordeaux region is the canter of attraction
Always keen for a little market expansion, China's rich and successful have seen that there is money to be made from this trend and have been busy snapping up as many of the French vineyards as they can.
A recent investigation by the South China Morning Post claimed that of 35 chateaux vineyard properties sold throughout France's Bordeaux region over the past last year, more than 20 were sold to Chinese buyers.
Compare that to 2010, when there were just three chateaux sold to Chinese buyers and you can see how hot this trend has become.
One of the biggest names in the Chinese wine world to make the move has been entrepreneur Zhang Jinshan, known in the country as the king of the goji berry thanks to the fact he founded the Ningxia Hong Group, which is the world's largest producer of the potent goji wine.
Zhang picked up the Chateau du Grand Moueys, situated southeast of Bordeaux, and has said he wanted to convert the 170-acre chateau into a restaurant and hotel complex, complete with nine-hole golf course. He'll keep the 59 hectares of vines, of course, and said he is aiming at attracting 10,000 Chinese tourists a year to the property.
Leaning on a little French know-how
Canny Chinese winemakers have already gone very public with their efforts to form partnerships with French winemakers so they don't miss out on the rise of their own market.
The expansive Great Wall label, which is based in Shandong province, last year created a buzz when it hired French winemaker Michel Rolland, formally of Chateau Angelus and Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot, to come and help its winemakers learn the ropes. — AFP/Relaxnews