Since 2008, two dozen French wine estates fell under Chinese control, like the Château de Viaud acquired by the food group Cofco, or the Château Grand Mouëys purchased by NingXia. As if vineyards, domains and châteaux weren’t enough, Chinese investors are now interested in the French wine trading industry.
Last year, the Bordeaux wine merchant Diva was acquired by the Chinese food and beverages giant Bright Food. The acquisition of a French wine trading company shows the growing interest in the Bordeaux vineyards by Chinese investors, who consequently gain control of their own wine supplies.
Shanghai Sugar Cigarette and Wine (SSCW), a subsidiary of Bright Food, will take control of 70% of Diva Bordeaux. Founded in 1979 by Pierre Beuchet and now managed by Jean-Pierre Rousseau, the trading venture is based in the Chartrons district, a historical location for wine commerce in Bordeaux. It is not the most important or best known wine trading companies, but it is probably amongst the top 10 when it comes to export. About 90% of its activity – 33 million euros ($45 million) last year – is made of foreign trading, half of it from China.
This market, which now accounts for 10% of the Bordeaux wine industry, experienced tremendous growth. Nonexistent in the early 2000s, China and Hong Kong generated 680 million euros ($930 million), more than 34% of export sales of Bordeaux wines.
With 60,000 outlets, including hundreds of wine shops, SSCW acquires Diva Bordeaux, ergo securing its wine supplies, though not exclusively. In Bordeaux, the wine commerce is controlled by some 300 trading agencies that offer a wide variety of wine production including Grands Crus. Since some of the most notorious châteaux do not conduct direct-to-consumer sales, the value of a trading company evolves around its relationships with the big labels. Jean Pierre Rousseau guarantees a reliable source of high quality wines: “We have access to a lot of various wine classifications, including those with very limited production. Grand crus counterfeits is common in China; this alliance is also a label of authenticity for Bright Food.”
The agreement does not affect the network of a dozen companies created by Diva in France (i.e.: Burgundy and Champagne) and worldwide, as it remains restricted to the Bordeaux branch only. This is yet another sign that China’s interest remains focused on the Bordeaux region.
Jean-Pierre Rousseau, who recently became CEO of Diva Bordeaux supports and remains highly optimistic about this new partnership: “In addition to financial resources, this alliance allows us to have access to a large distribution network. If Bordeaux wants to maintain its position in China, it is now essential to develop the wine consumption in the middle class.”
So all is well in the international world of wine trading, and it is safe to assume that this new merger is benefiting both parties. France and China have yet another reason to raise a glass and enjoy wine together… How do we say “cheers” in Chinese?