Chateau Beijing: Chinese buying up Bordeaux estates
By Marion Douet
CAPIAN, France (Reuters) - You could hardly do better than Chateau du Grand Moueys if you were looking for a metaphor to demonstrate Chinese interests in European wines, luxury goods and travel.
It has a history that includes a Templar legend, vineyards in the heart of France's famed Bordeaux region and a new Chinese owner with plans to export the wine home and turn its palatial 18th century house into a luxury hotel for tourists from China.
The French estate's new owner, Jin Shan Zhang is part of a wave of Chinese interests across Europe seeking to satisfy domestic demand for the finer things in life: French wines, luxury travel, foreign cars and fashionable clothes.
In France, Britain, Italy, Germany and elsewhere across Europe Chinese tourists are being catered to in high-end shops selling them top labels in everything from couture to cutlery. Hotels, department stores and luxury boutiques have taken on Chinese-speaking staff and most of Europe's luxury firms have an Asian business strategy they are actively pursuing.
China has become the biggest importer of Bordeaux wines and consumption in the middle kingdom soared by 110 percent in 2011 alone, with no sign of quenching a seemingly insatiable thirst.
About 15 Chinese individuals or businesses have purchased wine-growing properties in Bordeaux and Chinese investors also want to develop luxury tourism in Bordeaux, which they think will be the next fad as Chinese wealth pours into Europe.
"For Chinese people, the Bordeaux region is a paradise of wine, for the drink but also for the image of France, the landscapes and the chateaux," said Li Lijuan, the 28-year old Chinese woman in charge of managing the Grand Moueys property.
Owner Zhang made his fortune manufacturing fruit alcohol, owns several businesses including a travel agency and has an intimate understanding of the wine supply network back home. Continued...