The Chinese and My Folly

The Chinese continue to snap up Bordeaux estates, for China is now the world’s fifth largest wine consumer and was crowned the top drinker of red wine last year, drinking more than 1.8 billion bottles.

No wonder Chinese entrepreneurs are flocking to the Bordeaux region to look for more wine chateaux to buy – one hundred so far and counting.

This underlines the country’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for more properties to acquire. The Chinese are now the principal export market for Bordeaux wines, ahead of Britain, and started buying up the region’s chateaux in 2010 for their status symbols and to meet growing domestic demand for its vintages.

The hundred chateau-mark was reached when James Zhou, a packaging millionaire, acquired Chateau Renon, in Tabanac on the right bank of the Garonne River in the Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux region. The eighteenth-century chateau, bought for an undisclosed sum, came with twenty acres of vineyards and more than twelve acres of parkland and gardens.

Weeks earlier, Chen Miaolin, the billionaire founder of the New Century Tourism Group, a hotel and property company, snapped up Chateau de Birot, an eighty-five-acre property with an eighteenth-century mansion and around sixty acres of vine.

Generally interested in mid-range chateaux, the Chinese invest an average £7.5 million in buying Bordeaux domains, exporting more than eighty per cent of the wine produced for China where a bottle can go up to ten times the sale price in France.

In the early 1990s, I had an ambition to have my own vineyard, not in the Bordeaux region but on the land that surrounded our house in the Dordogne, where I was told part of it was once a vineyard. For almost three years I produced annually about three hundred bottles of Cépages Merlot, which proved drinkable.

I enjoyed being a mini-wine Baron for a while, but the economics proved unsustainable and the soil turned out to be inferior for the purpose.

The bottle pictured here is of the 1992 vintage which I keep as a momento, to remind me of one of my past follies which funnily enough I still cherish.

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