One of Burgundy’s most precious assets was recently purchased by a Chinese business man. The Gevrey-Chambertin château and its vineyard were sold for 8 million Euros. Potential local buyers could not compete with such a high offer. This type of monetary transactions is not unusual for the Bordeaux region, but it has remained unseen in Burgundy… until today.
The Gevrey-Chambertin vineyards, extending over more than 1,000 acres, produce an excellent, but less expensive, red wine. The seven acres bought with the château include small plots of the Grand Cru and Premier Cru “Chambertin” vineyards. The rest carries the more generic title Gevrey-Chambertin. The Chambertin vineyards proper, covering only a few acres, produce one of the most prized and expensive red wines in the world, selling at over €100 a bottle, which was one of the favourite drinks of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Emperor once said: “Nothing makes the future look so rosy as to contemplate it through a glass of Chambertin.”
The château is no longer visitable, and tourists can only admire the façade. Locals hope that promised renovations by the new owner will be successful. Josette Guyot, former winemaker, knows the family who sold the château and its vineyard very well: “One of the inheritors told me, we will sell to the person with the highest offer.”
In Gevrey-Chambertin, opinions are widely spread apart. Local winemakers had offered 5 million Euros for a domain that produces 10 to 12 thousand bottles per year, most of which is sold directly from the property itself. The offered amount was higher than the value of land and its dwelling, yet still short 3 millions. For Jean-Michel Guillon, winemaker and president of Vignerons de Gevrey-Chambertin Syndicate (Côtes-d’Or), it’s a bittersweet loss: “We have to know when to declare defeat. It’s not like the château will move; it’s been here since the 11th century. The vineyard will be handled by local winemakers, so there’s no concern about sustainability. It’s just a little unfortunate that it has to end this way.”
Understandably, the sale of the château triggered angry reactions from the locals. For them, it has become practically impossible to buy those “grands crus”, high-end vineyards and domains, which have recently increased in value due to foreign investors high interest. Unlike its rival Bordeaux, Burgundy remains dominated by relatively small estates run by winemakers who, regardless of how prosperous they may have become in recent years, regard themselves as farmers first and foremost. Properties generally get passed down from generation to generation, making foreign ownership relatively rare, again in contrast to Bordeaux.
Another winemaker, Gérard Quivy shares similar sentiments towards this recent event: “The main concern about those dealings is the noticeable increase in the value of these estates, especially for the “grands crus”. There are a lot more of those that will continue go on the market. Descendants who have no desire to make wine will sell to the highest bidder, and that could cause a problem in the long term.”
Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the most distinguished Burgundy wine, and the most famous appelation on the 1360 acres of Côtes De Nuits. Today, it’s 7 small acres that sold at a very high price, raising the regional average to new standards. Those 7 acres that once were cultivated by monks, are now owned by Chinese investors.
Read more popular wine quotes from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and other famous people, here.