Chinese mogul Jin Shan Zhang has just bought Chateau De Grand Moueys, the luxurious Bordeaux estate featuring a palatial 18th century house. Zhan, who made his fortune manufacturing fruit alcohol, owns several businesses (including a travel agency) and has a keen understanding of the demand for wine back home. Zhang and his recent real estate acquisition perfectly embody the wave of wealthy Chinese who are scouring Europe in search of the finer things in life and bringing them to the home market.
In all major European cities, high-end retail stores cater to the niche interests of the Chinese. Hotels and boutiques maintain Mandarin-speaking staff. Most luxury stores have quite a specific “Asian business strategy” that they follow ardently. China has become the biggest importer of Bordeaux wines, which perfectly illuminates the country’s pastiche for old-world luxury and sophistication.
“For Chinese people, the Bordeaux region is a paradise of wine, for the drink but also for the image of France, the landscapes and the chateaux,” said Li Lijuan, the 28-year old in charge of managing the Grand Moueys property.
Zhang plans to sell Chateau De Grand Moueys’s wine in China and convert the grand home into a luxury hotel for Chinese tourists in 2013, complete with French gardens, tennis courts, a golf course and a high-end Chinese restaurant. “We will export at least 80 percent of our production to China. We will increase our output of white wine, Chinese people love it because it’s sugary,” Li added.
Chinese investors are interested in the Bordeaux’s famous name, but they are not purchasing the top wine producers labeled “grand crus”. Rather, they buy intermediate wine qualities largely for cost reasons. In fact, they are after the “impressive and beautiful buildings” that come with these properties as much as the vintage.
According to analysts, these intermediate properties cost an average of 5 million euros ($6.6 million), compared to 20 times more for a “grand cru”.
About 15 Chinese individuals or businesses have purchased wine-growing properties in Bordeaux. Many Chinese investors also want to develop luxury tourism in the region, which they think will be the next fad.
Zhang told Decanter magazine last month that he hopes to welcome about 10,000 Chinese visitors a year to Grand Moueys from 2013, but will keep it open for other tourists as well. “We will retain the luxury French feel of the wine and the estate, and hope to marry this with Chinese culture,” he was quoted by Decanter.
Out of the 11,000 chateaux sitting along the Garonne River in Bordeaux, between 15 and 20 have been sold to Chinese investors since 2008 and another 30 properties might soon change hands. While this figure may still sound marginal, analysts in the sector say this trend will intensify.
photo credit: Öhmans Mat & Vin