It’s like a game of world domination, except the main commodity is wine, and China is on a roll! Another Saint-Emilion Grand Cru has been sold to a Chinese investor. After being on the market for quite some time, the 32 acre Château Bellefont-Belcier is the latest property to fall into the Chinese wine investing craze. After Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy was purchased by a different Chinese investor a few weeks ago, it is the Bordeaux region that just faced yet another “transaction” with China.
The Bellefont-Belcier domain was originally owned by a very powerful Bordeaux family. Towards the end of the 18th century, original owner Count Louis-François de Belcier founded the vineyard, after which he built a château and called it “Bellefont”. The name is short for “Belle Fontaine”, in reference to the many natural springs surrounding the château. Bellefont-Belcier was then sold in 1871. After multiple transactions, the domain and its château were acquired by agronomical engineer Pierre Faure, who decided to build a large circular tank, a true masterpiece and breathtaking addition to the original structure. The descendants carried on the family’s vocation and dedication to winemaking. They remained the sole owners until selling to businessmen Dominique Hébrard, Alain Laguillaumie and Jacques Berrebi in 1994. The three partners recently listed the domain for sale but local interest was diluted by outrageous business expenses and a business model that remains difficult to sustain under such fiscal and political policies.
This transaction is not China’s first operation. As a matter of fact, various Chinese investors have already purchased about 30 châteaux out of 8,000 in the Bordeaux region alone. However, this is the first domain “Grand Cru Classé”. This means that Chinese investors are willing to spend more to get a better quality wine. How much you ask? The final amount remains undisclosed, but various sources have estimated the purchase price for a mere 30 million euros (or approximately $40 million dollars)! Not too shabby…
“With the purchase of Bellefont, we pass a symbolic and predictable checkpoint”, says Georges Haushalter, president of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux (CIVB). “Chinese interest for French wine is genuine, it’s only logical for them to be engrossed in the entire spectrum of quality”. China is slowly and safely investing in higher grade wines, which elevates them in the Bordeaux wine “hierarchy” panel. However, according to Haushalter, the fortunate Chinese buyers are genuinely in love with French wines and their “terroirs”. They invest in French domains to fix and renovate old dwellings, vineyards, cellars, and intend to produce quality wines.
So are they done? Not quite… actually, about 10 more properties are part of heavy negotiations with other Chinese titans, says Hervé Olivier, real estate agent and regional manager of SAFER (Société d’Aménagement Foncier et d’Etablissement Rural). The Chinese are only getting started as they follow a long line of other investors from England, Holland, United States and Japan, which contribute to the global and historical appeal of the Bordeaux wine region. Need to know more? See who else is investing in French domains.
By the way – a bit of advice – you may want to learn how to say wine in Chinese.
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