A few days ago, I wrote a news article about the acquisition of the Gevrey-Chambertin château and its vineyard by the Chinese. It is the first time that a Burgundy Vineyard falls into the powerful hands of Chinese investors. However, that phenomenon isn’t new in the Bordeaux region of France. A growing Chinese taste for French wine has helped to maintain the price levels of the best French wines in recent years. Despite a slump in the wider wine market, sales of French vineyards have doubled in the last two decades and the average price per hectare has tripled.
Which regions are the most attractive for foreign investors? Which countries are the most interested in buying French vineyards? Are the French people able to resist such generous offers?
Burgundy: Chinese investors latest target… but it all started in the most popular region of France, Bordeaux. Since their arrival 3 years ago, the Chinese bought 25 châteaux. But here, the principal owners from other countries are not from China, they are from Belgium, leading the race with more than 40 domains, way ahead of the United States, Russia, Germany and Japan. Just to give you an idea of the current situation, out of eight thousand estates, around one hundred of them are operating under a foreign banner.
Georges Haushalter (Président of Bordeaux Vineyards Commission) is 100% in favor of this new movement that has been rocking the wine real-estate in multiple regions of France: “There’s nothing better than having Chinese people coming to our country, invest in our properties, and make their own wine. Ultimately, they will be our best ambassadors to persuade their own, and make them buy French wine.”
Foreign investors’ thirst for more buying opportunities sharpens in yet another region of France: Languedoc. During both World Wars, the Languedoc region was responsible for providing the daily wine rations given to all French soldiers. The sad reputation of Languedoc wines is mass production and mediocre quality. In 1962, Algeria gained its independence from France, bringing an end to the blending of the stronger Algerian red wine to mask the thin “gros rouge”. This event, coupled with French consumers moving away from cheap red wines in the 1970s, has contributed to several decades of surplus wine production in France. The Languedoc wine industry is now experiencing commercial success due to outside investment and an increased focus on quality. Sales have been improved by many vineyards that concentrate on creating a good brand.
Two emblematic estates of the Languedoc region, including Prieuré Saint-Jean de Bébian was just bought by a Russian investor. But it is primarily the British who have invested the most in small wine estates since the past 15 years. Those investments have allowed the region to reach new markets, and turn its reputation around.
Denis Saverot, (Editor in Chief at La Revue Du Vin De France) speaks positively about those foreign financial capitals: “You must remember that wine sales brings between 6 to 8 billion Euros to the French commerce scale, and in this fuzzy, debt driven economic times, it is a good thing for our wine to be at the pinnacle of the global market.”
Rhône, Provence and Val de Loire wines are not in the target of foreign investors yet. Champagne remains a HIGHLY restricted hunting grounds. Large luxury groups and local families proudly conserve their noble possessions, and keep the doors well shut.
So who wants to buy a vineyard in France?