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First Acquisition in Pomerol by Hong Kong Investor – Is Bordeaux Turning Chinese?

commanderieThe first acquisition in Pomerol by a Hong Kong investor has recently taken place.  Chateau La Commanderie, owned by the Dé family, has been sold to Grace Star Development.  The family apparently sold up due to the absence of an heir who wished to take over the family business.  La Commanderie is a 6 hectare estate that lies on lands owned by the Hospitaliers of St John of Jerusalem in the 12th century along the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela.  In the grounds of the chateau there stands a Maltese cross which gives the chateau its name and adorns the label.

La Commanderie had been owned by the Dé family since the 1900s and is located in the southern portion of Pomerol, neighbouring Chateau Nenin.  The family were friends of the legendary oenologist Professor Peynaud whose experience benefited their wine making.  The vineyards are planted with 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc and the vines average age is 45 years.  The Second Wine is named Chateau Haut Manoir.  Grace Star Development are said to be Bordeaux wine enthusiasts who are passionate about its wines and history.

la commanderie chxDecanter reported last week that from the beginning of 2011, a leading Bordeaux real estate agent says, an average of one Bordeaux chateau per month has been sold to a Chinese investor. The auction House Christie’s has launched a service to help potential buyers of vineyard estates and Estate Agent Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes (Christie’s Bordeaux affiliate) told Decanter that:

“People who are buying Bordeaux chateaux are looking to service that market.  Typically, they want to control the supply chain.”

commanderie 2However despite the spate of Bordeaux chateaux being snapped up by Chinese investors this is a “mere blip on the radar’’ according to Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes There around 8000 chateaux producing wines from  120,000 hectares of vines in Bordeaux so Chinese owners represent only 0.5% of ownership.

Michael Baynes of Maxell-Storrie-Baynes also explained that:

“Many of our Chinese clients have stated that they have initially purchased something relatively inexpensive in Bordeaux to establish a presence and learn about the system here. Once they have built their confidence we have been told that they will purchase again, and most likely at a more prestigious/expensive level.

That process has now started with the recent sale to the Chinese of Chateau Bellefont Belcier,  the St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé, reported to have sold for about €30m.”

bernadotteAccording to Baynes, St Emilion Grand Cru Chateau La Mouleyre [Saint Emilion] was reportedly sold to Chinese buyers for about €3.5m, Grand Cru Chateau Quercy [Saint Emilion] for about €5m and Chateau Bernadotte [Haut Medoc] for more than €10m.

“We believe we will continue to see Chinese vineyard purchases in Bordeaux for some time to come,” he added.

Baynes makes an important point when he says that Bordeaux has a long history of foreign investment however the Chinese seem to have outstripped other foreign investors as their purchases are far more numerous – and rapid.  Despite his claim that the Bordelaise are ‘delighted’ to have the Chinese there it’s by no means unanimous as some chateaux owners refuse to sell out to Asian investors, preferring to keep their chateaux in French hands.  The Chinese inclination to sell direct and control their own supply chain will shake up the Bordelaise somewhat and we may see this influence how the Bordelaise think about their own methods of selling wines.

Other chateaux reported to have been purchased by Chinese investors are:

la fleur jonquetChateau La Fleur Jonquet  (Graves).  Purchased by Chinese architect Wencheng Li. Wencheng Li is already a wine producer in China and owns Wencheng Castle near Beijing which is a Versailles style tourist attraction, hotel and wine estate. La Fleur Jonquet is Li’s third purchase in Bordeaux, where he already owns Chateau La Dominante (Bordeaux Superieur in Saint Denis de Pile) and Chateau Lucas (Côtes de Castillon).

Chateau de Pic (Côtes de Cadillac). According to Decanter the estate was on the market for at least three years prior to its purchase by Chinese industrialist Mr Wu, whose principal activity is the distribution of baiju alcohol in China. Wu has employed a Chinese manager to live full-time at the property

Chateau Patarabet (Saint Emilion).  Rumour has it that  the purchaser is a Singaporean investor who already owns one property in Saint Emilion.

There are more sales in the pipeline and it will interesting to see if any well known ‘names’ succumb or if the Chinese make inroads into the Medoc appellations of Pauillac etc.

Photo Credit:  Vitisphere.com

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