The Great Chateaux of China?

It’s been reported that China’s largest juice maker, Beijing Huiyuan Juice Drinks Food Co Ltd will invest 500 million yuan ($79.15 million) to enter the wine business. Apparently the drinks giant will first invest 200 million yuan to grow 333 hectares of grapes in Liuhe county, Jilin province, which is expected to produce 3000 tons of wine.

The company will establish a modern agricultural industrial park including a “chateau” for tourists, The second phase of the project is to produce 10,000 tons of grape juice a year.

Chateau building in China is big business and they are popping up all over the place. Rather than building in a traditional oriental style the chateaux are typically French, big, beautiful . . . and aimed at the tourist industry.

 Château Zhang Laffitte is a case in point, being a high class business hotel with a Chinese restaurant and a French restaurant, 72 suites and 550 luxury homes in its surrounding park land. This is not a wine producing chateau – yet.

However Chinese wine producers Dynasty and Changyu-Castel are building their own chateaux as flag ships for their brands.

Dynasty has a mock classical chateau that echoes the Palace of Versailles in Tianjin. The chateau spans 11,000 square meters and features spires, battlements and marble statues that pay tribute to Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine. Also sitting prominently at the front of the property is a glass and metallic structure styled after The Louvre in Paris.

An underground museum beneath this striking pyramid explains the history of wine and wine making and the chateau itself is filled with Regency furnishings and antiques including historic tapestries, medieval suits of armour and an armchair owned by 16th century French author Michel de Montaigne.

Changyu seems to have gone to town with its chateaux, building iconic chateaux at its vineyards. Chateau Baron Balboa is under construction in Shihezi, Xinjiang and is hoped to be operational next year. They already have the Chateau Changyu Afip Global in Beijing, Chateau Changyu-Castel in Yantai and an ice wine chateau in Liaoning.

They are soon to be joined by another venture – Cheng Qu from Dalian purchased 4 chateaux in Bordeaux recently and is reported to want to open a theme park based on wine back in China. Cheng Qu has established a company named France’s Lamont Winery Group and will invest three billion yuan in the first wine park in Dalian: the International Wine Industrial Park.

The park will focus on grape growing and wine production. It will also integrate tourism activities. China Daily reports that 333.3 hectares of grapes will be planted. Apparently the park will have chateaux, a Bordeaux wine museum, a hotel, a French wine school and a China-French Wine Cultural Exchange Centre.

Beautiful though they are I can’t help feeling it is a shame that the Chinese chateaux are not being built to reflect their own amazing history and culture.

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