Bordeaux wary of rich Chinese changing estates’ names

Chinese investors of Bordeaux estates are giving century-old Bordeaux estates a PR makeover with auspicious-sounding Chinese names to please domestic wine drinkers, raising alarm among Bordeaux purists.

Photo source: The Times

According to a report by The Times, the 300-year-old Château Larteau recently got a name change to Château Lapin Imperial (Château Imperial Rabbit) by its Chinese owner Chi Tong, a businessman who owns World Harvest Far East.

Its symbol of a white wall mansion has been subsequently replaced with a fluffy rabbit.

Tong did not stop there with just rabbit. Three of his other Bordeaux estates all went through name rehashing.

Château Senilhac in Médoc has been named Château Antilope Tibetaine (Château Tibetan Antelope), the newspaper wrote. Château La Tour Saint-Pierre in Saint Emilion is now Château Lapin d’Or (Château Golden Rabbit), while in Pomerol the Chinese businessman is once again evoking antelope, calling Château Close Bel-Air, Château Grande Antilope (Chateau Great Antilope).

Both rabbit and antilope or sheep in general carry positive connotations in Chinese culture. Rabbit represents wit while sheep are largely associated with auspiciousness. Both are represented in Chinese astrology.

Jean-Marie Garde, chairman of the Pomerol wine-makers’ union, told the newspaper that he hoped the strategy was “not going to be generalised. For our image and our notoriety, it would be bad if the names of great châteaux were transformed into rabbits and antelopes.”

It’s worth noting that the name-changing initiative by one Chinese businessman is unlikely to usher in more rabbits, antelopes, dragons or monkeys on Bordeaux winery names. There are more than 8,000 vineyards in Bordeaux and Chinese own around 160 estates in France, with the majority being in Bordeaux.

But in recent years, Chinese are getting quicker to buy up Bordeaux estates. According to Michael Baynes, founder of the agent Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes, cited by The Telegraph, Chinese buyers now make up 40% of all the buyers currently snapping up vineyards in the region.

Chinese actress Zhao Wei has purchased Château Monlot in Bordeaux, and billionaire Jack Ma owns three vineyards in the region.

3 Responses to “Bordeaux wary of rich Chinese changing estates’ names”

  1. Rick Lindsay says:

    Who’s to say one mans Chateaux is not another mans Antelope. If you own it, you name it.

  2. Robin Chua says:

    This is going to sound funny when we sell the wines…i cant imagine saying during a wine tasting…”do you smell the antelope horns in the wine” or buy this wine for good luck…;p

  3. Jake Kenyon says:

    If these estates are being bought out by Chinese buyers, then clearly the previous owners weren’t properly running/marketing the business anyway. New owners have every right to rebrand a business in the aims of bringing success. If they’re wealthy enough to buy estates of such ‘repute’ then I would hazard a guess they have a better idea of business than those who had to forfeit the estates before. Similarly to the truffle business, which is rife with bigotry against the Chinese for unsubstantiated reasons, it seems France’s not-so-subtle prejudice against an entire nation of people strikes again. ‘Inferiority’ and ‘purism’ seem to go hand-in-hand here.

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