Thursday, May 17, 2012

france Grape Expectations

China’s fast-growing thirst for prestige wine has made wineries in Bordeaux some of the hottest real estate on the planet. Over the past year or so, Chinese buyers have snapped up more than a dozen wineries, most of them in a region called Entre-deux-Mers, which is known for producing fruity, easy-to-drink wines that suit the Chinese palette.

The latest to turn over is Chateau Grand Moueys, a 425-acre estate along the Garonne River in the village of Capian. The estate, which has been producing wines since before the French Revolution, had previously been owned by a German company.

Chateau Grand Moueys’ new owner, Zhang Jinshan, is the principal of Ningxiahong Zhongning Wolfberry Products Company, which has been described as “the world’s largest producer of alcohol from goji berries.”

Zhang also owns a travel agency, which will come in handy in his effort to help turn his winery into a vacation spot for Chinese tourists. “From 2013, we hope to welcome around 10,000 Chinese visitors a year,” he told at the time of the sale.

Chateau Grand Moueys currently has only about half of its property under cultivation, which means that Zhang has plenty of opportunities for development. He plans to overhaul the property’s 18th-century estate, add an upscale Chinese restaurant, and build a nine-hole golf course. And if his projected tourism numbers pan out, he’ll turn the estate’s guest rooms into a hotel with a spa.

Various reports from France say that more sales are in process. “For some chateaux that struggle to sell their wine,” a winery owner told Decanter in late 2011, “China really is a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

Some information in this post originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of the World Edition of the Golf Course Report.