Yesterday Tim Atkin mentioned on Twitter that Chateau Cheval Blanc was actively looking at establishing a vineyard in China according to Pierre Lurton.
It seems a logical step given that the luxury goods group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) own a 50% stake in Cheval Blanc (as well as Chateau d’Yquem) and that LVMH announced that their brand Moet Hennessy was to plant its first vineyard in China with the state owned agricultural company Ningxia Nongken in May.
Moet Hennessy plans to produce a top end sparkling wine made to traditional methods under their brand name of Chandon.
LVMH have a well established business network in China. Their Hennessy Cognac has been distributed with success in China since 1859 and the company opened its first subsidiary in China in 1993.
Cheval Blanc is not the first Bordeaux chateaux to venture East – Chateau Lafite Rothschild is already planting its vineyard in China in partnership with CITIC, China’s largest state-owned investment company, on over 60 acres on the peninsula of Penglai in Shandong province.
LVMH have also promoted Cheval Blanc via their range of luxury hotels. Two new hotels, named Cheval Blanc, are currently being built in Oman and Egypt and are proposed to open in 2012.
The Maison Cheval Blanc in Oman is on the 11 square-kilometre island of Al Sodah and includes 32 private villas, each with its own beach and swimming pool.
The development in Egypt is on the private island of Amoun in Aswan and will include about 40 suites overlooking the Nile. LVMH has said that “other projects are currently under study in exceptional destinations”.
The first LVMH Cheval Blanc hotel opened in French ski resort Courchevel in 2006, but this move marks the brand’s intentions to expand and develop the hospitality aspect of its business.
LVMH’s hotels will be a showcase for many of its brands. The Cheval Blanc in Courchevel has a Givenchy spa, and visitors can buy its Louis Vuitton and Dior merchandise in the hotel . . . and presumably the wines of Chateau Cheval Blanc.
Oddly enough Chateau Cheval Blanc owes its name to an inn, which makes the hotel chain seem rather fitting. According to tradition the château was built on an old inn which was named Cheval Blanc.
The story behind the name is that Henry IV once stayed at the inn, having ridden there on his famous white steed.
Chateau Cheval Blanc’s Chief Financial Officer, Arnaud de Laforcade, told Decanter.com that: “traditionally our sales have been one third to Asia, one third to Europe and one third to the United States”. I wonder if the figure sold to Asia will increase once their vineyard in China becomes operative?