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Chinese now own 100 Bordeaux chateaux, as wine mania grows

China, the main export market for Bordeaux wines, has been steadily acquiring vineyards, to the dismay of many in France's most hallowed wine-making region

A hundred Bordeaux châteaux are now in Chinese hands, underlining the Asian giant's seemingly unquenchable thirst for property in the legendary French wine-making region. 

The Chinese, who are now the principal export market for Bordeaux wines, ahead of Britain, started buying up the region's châteaux in 2010, both to acquire status symbols and to meet growing domestic demand for its vintages. 

The symbolic 100 chateau mark was reached when Chinese packaging millionaire James Zhou acquired Château Renon in Tabanac on the right bank of the Garonne river, in the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux region. 

The 18th century château, bought for an undisclosed sum, came with 20 acres of vineyards and more than five hectares of parkland and gardens. 

Weeks earlier, Chen Miaolin, billionaire founder of New Century Tourism Group, a luxury hotel and property company, snapped up Château de Birot, an 85-acre property with an 18th century mansion and around 60 acres of vines.

 

Generally interested in mid-range châteaux, the Chinese invest on average 10 million euros in buying Bordeaux domains, exporting more than 80 per cent of the wine produced on their property to China, where demand is such that a bottle can go for up to 10 times the sale price in France. 

Despite the seemingly high number, this means the Chinese still own only 1.3 per cent of the 7,400-odd châteaux that dot the Bordeaux region. The region's top foreign owners remain the Belgians, with the Chinese now in second place but catching up fast.

China was the world's top destination for Bordeaux in value, buying 240 million euros (£180 million) of wine, compared to 218 million euros (£164 million) in Britain and 214 million euros (£161 million) in Hong Kong, according to the Bordeaux wine board. 

China is now the world's fifth largest wine consumer and was crowned the top consumer of red wine last year having drunk 1.865 billion bottles. 

Chinese thirst for French vineyards hit the headlines last year when Communist Party auditors, as part of an anti-corruption drive, revealed that millions of pounds of government money had been illicitly used to snap up 14 French châteaux. 

Chinese investors have recently also set their sights on Burgundy. In 2012, Louis Ng Chi Sing, a Chinese gambling tycoon, outbid local vintners to pay eight million euros for Château de Gevrey-Chambertin, sparking dire warnings from local growers of a "foreign invasion" of mainly Asian investors. 

The sale led one disappointed local bidder to exclaim: "What would the Chinese say if French investors bought up 10 or 50 metres of the Great Wall of China?"

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