Christie’s launches agency to help Chinese buy wineries

Christie’s is capitalising on the thirst for wealthy Chinese consumers to buy wineries by opening the world’s first estate agency for would-be vineyard buyers.

Of the 37 châteaux sold in Bordeaux last year, 23 were Chinese bought

Vineyards by Christie’s International Real Estate, billed as the “first global advisory for buyers of vineyard estates”, is to open in Hong Kong.

Run by both wine experts and luxury property specialists, the agency will offer a consultancy service for clients looking to acquire vineyards around the world.

According to David Elswood, Christie’s international director of wine in Europe and Asia, the idea for the agency came after continued demand from clients at the auction house’s wine auctions in Hong Kong for advice on buying vineyard properties overseas.

“We are uniquely positioned to offer this highly specialised vineyard advisory acquisition service and we look forward to this exciting venture,” he said.

In addition to advice on which wineries are on sale around the world, Christie’s will also provide clients with custom travel arrangements and translation services.

Thirsty for Bordeaux. Credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters

“Wineries in sought after locations are often small and discrete, and without guidance, buyers never even know they are on the market.

“It’s not uncommon for more than half of our vineyards to be privately listed, never advertised and never placed on websites,” said Michael Baynes of Christie’s International Real Estate affiliate Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes in Bordeaux.

Demand for fine wine in Hong Kong has exploded in recent years, with Christie’s reporting a total of £24m from nine wine sales in HK last year.

A jeroboam of 1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti sold for over £47,000 at one Hong Kong auction, as China has surged ahead to become the fourth largest export market for Burgundy behind Japan, the UK and the US.

In tandem with a growing thirst for Bordeaux and Burgundy in Hong Kong, a desire has developed among wealthy Chinese consumers to go one step further and buy their own properties.

Of the 35 châteaux sold in Bordeaux in 2011, 21 went to Chinese buyers, while 23 of the 37 châteaux sold in the region last year were Chinese bought.

Christie's

Just last week Chinese architect Wengcheng Li bought the nine-hectare Château La Fleur Jonquet in Graves, taking his Bordeaux châteaux total up to three.

Li owns Château La Dominante, in Saint–Denis de Pile and Château Lucas in Castillon-la-Bataille.

The property boasts some of the oldest vines in the Graves appellation and exports around 75% of its annual production of 50,000 bottles.

Though the rush among Chinese investors to buy a slice of Bordeaux terroir may be mistimed as there are signs that Asian demand for French wines has peaked.

The Liv-ex Fine Wine 50 Index dipped by 9.7% last year following a 17% drop in 2011.

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