You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Wednesday 1 July 2015
Ben Kennedy
The views expressed in db Reader do not represent the views of the drinks business.

A Sad Farewell

16th January, 2014 by Ben Kennedy

The tragic helicopter crash in the Dordogne remains an open case but today’s news brings closure for one victim’s family.

pengThe Bordeaux region, and in particular the wine trade, has been languishing under a grey cloud these last few weeks.

You will have heard of the tragic accident which took the lives of four people when a helicopter crashed into the Dordogne River a few days before Christmas, a story covered in the UK press and wine publications and websites.

The identities of the old and new owners of Château La Rivière were known, but I immediately feared that the third adult – referred to initially simply as the interpreter – would be Peng Wang, a colleague of mine at the Bordeaux International Wine Institute and business associate of a close friend.

I had seen Peng at a dinner a week earlier, when he had told me briefly of his new venture with the Fronsac property, the latest and by far the most important of a number of vineyard transactions that he had instigated and brought to fruition with my friend.

I was very pleased for him as he was a conscientious and hard-working young man who had begun to carve out for himself a varied and successful career here in Bordeaux and, although always modest, he was clearly very pleased with this next step.  He was to become a director of the château and its various projects for development.

Peng arrived in Bordeaux fresh from China in 2008 to study wine business and marketing, a daunting prospect in a very foreign culture, especially not being from a moneyed background, but he made an impression on his teachers as a gifted and serious student, and was engaged as the school’s Chinese teacher as soon as he graduated with his Masters.

I initially met Peng when he was on an internship with a small négociant company belonging to an old friend of mine. He worked hard using his family’s network back home to pitch for business amongst the wealthy classes in mainland China.

I got the impression that things did not develop easily to begin with but he persisted, soon becoming a partner in the company and moving into broader wine consultancy activities for Chinese clients eager to make Bordeaux part of their jet-set lifestyle. Projects included a golf club whose members wanted to build and stock a breath-taking wine cellar, and I remember the pièce de résistance was an enormous bespoke tasting table made of Baccarat crystal costing an absolute fortune and requiring installation by their own staff, flown over from France for the job.

He was also instrumental in the sale of at least two of my friends’ own wine châteaux to Chinese clients, perhaps more, but he didn’t brag about his achievements, always a quiet participant working hard in the background to get the job done and much appreciated by his clients.

On our occasional meetings around town I got to know Peng as a charming and rather shy chap, always smiling. He had a good sense of humour, we joked of course about the peculiarities of the French, and with his gentle demeanour I am certain he was a great dad. He leaves his wife Lina, who studied wine with him, and little Margaux their daughter.

Peng would undoubtedly have gone on to undertake some pretty amazing work bringing together French wine culture and their new Chinese audience, and I’m not just saying this, I think Bordeaux will be poorer for losing him. He was just getting started and would have been able to put his talents, cultural diplomacy and experience towards helping Bordeaux fulfil many of its aspirations in China.

The upsetting absence of three of the four victims following the crash put many people who knew them into a sort of suspension, unable to react to their departure without hard evidence, but today it was confirmed that a body pulled from the river on Saturday morning is in fact that of Peng. The search continues for James Grégoire and Lam Kok, who had just signed on the vineyard sale before take-off, and our thoughts remain with both their families, but at least this grey cloud of doubt has dispersed and we have closure on one dossier.

6 Responses to “A Sad Farewell”

  1. Susie Bridger says:

    Ben thank you for your tribute to this wonderfully gentle, humble and undeniably succesful young man.

    Peng was originally one of my students at INSEEC Masters – a quiet yet clearly exceptionally intelligent student. I later had the honour of his company as a colleague and, as you mentioned, he had a wonderful sense of humor. I remember him well at Chinese New Year 2013 celebrated with all our Chinese students. It was a pleasure to be in both his and his wife’s company. His devotion to his daughter was prominent.

    The shock of his accident has been enormous and my heart goes out to his family.

    Susan Bridger
    Dean of Business English, Lecturer in Negotiaion, Geopolitics, Business Law
    INSEEC Masters, BIWI, Bordeaux

  2. Ben, thanks for sharing these good words about our friend Peng. So sad, he left us that quickly.

  3. Miguel Lecuona says:

    Such a fitting story you filed, thank you. Dining at his home and spending time with Lina and Baby Margaux are memories I will now treasure all the more. Keep them in your prayers always. Peng will be missed.

  4. Lingling GAN says:

    Thank you all for your kind words. I still think that’s a bad joke, unbelievable ! I’m so sad for them and their families! …

  5. Mathilde B says:

    Thats’s awful… I didn’t know he was in this crash. Best chinese teacher ever. He learned me how to read the lines in my hand! A strong thought to the family..
    Thanks for the article.

  6. Claire Dawson says:

    Thank you Ben…

    I met Peng when we were students at Inseec and then we became friends and colleagues. We visited hil home town (Shenyang)and as always Peng showed kindness, generosity of spirit and creativity.
    I am very sad for this loss, but grateful to have shared some lovely moments with someone who beleived in projects without cultural bounderies…
    My love and thoughts to Lina & Margaux xxx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

Bilingual 'tool' demystifies wine tasting

The Australian Grape and Wine Authority has developed a new "tool" which more...

Austrian wine importer launches in Hong Kong

A wine importer specialising in Austrian wines has launched in Hong Kong to more...

Hart Davis Hart biggest in US

Chicago-based wine auctioneer Hart Davis Hart is the market leader in the US in more...

London Sales Manager / Key Account Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive - depending on skills and experience

Castel feeds aperitif thirst

Europe’s largest wine producer, Castel, has unveiled a raft of new products more...

Wine thieves go on trial

A gang of wine thieves accused of stealing a million euros worth of wine from more...

BI offers 2014 imperial collection en primeur

Fine wine merchant Bordeaux Index is offering its clients a 10 imperial more...

Hatch Mansfield – Brand Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive salary

En primeur: beware the heralded vintage?

From an investment point of view is it best to buy the “vintages of the more...

Rise for Haut Bailly in Liv-ex 2015 classification

Liv-ex’s bi-annual “re-classification” of Bordeaux saw Haut Bailly leap more...

Men down $1k of ‘aphrodisiac’ wine at airport

Two Chinese air passengers downed an entire bottle of aphrodisiac wine after more...

PR Manager

Competitive

Vinexpo: five days 'too much' says organiser

Vinexpo doesn’t need to run for the full five days because no visitor stays more...

Online retailer to highlight 'hidden gems'

A new online boutique wine importer and retailer Perfect Cellar has opened for more...

Oregon producer takes international view

One of Oregon’s youngest wine estates has partnered with Jackson Family Wines more...

International Business Development Assistant

London, United Kingdom

To be determined, based on the profile and experience of the candidate

China recognises 'Bordeaux'

China has said it now recognises the term “Bordeaux” as a brand after what more...

Plumpton College principal awarded OBE

Mr Des Lambert, Principal of Plumpton College since 2003, has been awarded an more...

UK craves Spanish wining and dining

British foodies are passing over Bordeaux and Burgundy in favour of Spanish more...

Social Media Editor

Competitive

China’s Ningxia region launches wine contest

Select winemakers will have the chance to travel to China to learn from its more...

Bordeaux wine thieves found guilty

A French court has sentenced 15 men over the audacious theft of $1.1 million of more...

Lidl hints at plans for online wine shop

UK supermarket Lidl has not ruled out launching an online wine shop, reporting more...

Supplier Relationship Manager

London, United Kingdom

Bordeaux 2005: 12 ‘perfect’ wines

Twelve wines have been given “perfect” 100-point ratings in Robert more...

Sutcliffe steps down from Sotheby’s role

Serena Sutcliffe MW has stepped down from her position as worldwide head of more...