Move over Bordeaux: French premium winemakers eye China vintage

Thu Aug 1, 2013 6:13pm EDT
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By Terril Yue Jones

BEIJING (Reuters) - In a few remote corners of China, two of France's top winemakers have more on their minds than a trade row with their most promising export market.

In three far-flung provinces, a world away from Beijing's allegations of European wine dumping, makers of such lofty French brands as Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Dom Perignon champagne are investing millions of dollars to produce vintages they hope will put Chinese wine on the world map.

In a country where cheap plonk and overpriced mediocre wines still define the domestic industry, the French are partnering with Chinese investors to produce super-premium wines for increasingly discerning drinkers at the market's top end.

They will likely charge hundreds of dollars per bottle when the wines start appearing in a year or two, turning out deeply rich reds and elegantly sparkling wines for wealthy Chinese drinkers who they hope will be proud to serve local vintages that are the equal of their imported collections.

"China deserves the production of great wines," said Christophe Salin, president of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (DBR), which owns the vaunted Chateau Lafite, Ch. Duhart-Milon and Ch. L'Evangile, among other French labels. "Without wanting to copy Lafite, we wish to produce a great wine on Chinese soil," he added in an interview.


DBR is investing 100 million yuan ($16.3 million) with partner CITIC, a state investment firm, to develop 25 hectares (62 acres) of vineyards in eastern Shandong province to produce super-premium red wine for the Chinese market.

Moet-Hennessy, the wine and spirits arm of luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, is also looking to make a top-end Chinese red and is planting 30 hectares (74 acres) of grapes in remote mountains of southern Yunnan province.   Continued...

A man drinks a glass of red wine during the 6th Shanghai International Wine Trade Fair in this June 1, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files