China turning its back on top Bordeaux

17th April, 2013 by Lucy Shaw

While the 2012 vintage in Bordeaux has been hailed a “pleasant surprise”, there is expected to be low demand for the wines from Chinese consumers this year.

A broken relationship? China is turning its back on the first growths

A broken relationship? China is turning its back on the Bordeaux first growths

Part of the reason the Chinese are pulling away from Bordeaux is due to the losses they suffered on the 2010 vintage.

Many snapped up wines from the top châteaux when prices skyrocketed and were left reeling when the prices slumped soon after the wines were sold.

China is currently Bordeaux’s biggest market in terms of volume and second in value, but Chinese buyers are expected to steer clear of the 2012 campaign.

“They might come and visit us during primeurs week to taste the wines, but they won’t buy anything,” Bernard de Laage de Meux, commercial director for Châteaux Palmer told the drinks business.

Gary Boom, managing director of Bordeaux Index, agrees: “They won’t touch it. They’ve learned that the price can go down as well as up,” he told AFP.

Chinese interest is shifting away from the Médoc and towards the Right Bank

Chinese interest is shifting away from the Médoc and towards the Right Bank. Image c/o The Wine Cellar Insider

But it’s not only the memory of the 2010 losses that is driving Chinese away from Bordeaux.

According to the Wine Spectator, Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the government to cut back on its entertainment spend, leading to a drop in demand for the first growths, which are commonly gifted among the Chinese elite.

“Ostentatiousness is politically frowned on in China now,” Hong Kong-based Simon Staples of Berry Bros & Rudd told the WS.

Wines over £500 have been the most affected by the new austerity measure, and in the last year, the majority of the wine shipped to China sells in the country for under £35 ex-château.

As the Chinese market matures and becomes more value conscious and less brand driven, consumers are no longer willing to spend the amounts the top châteaux are charging for their wines, which is forcing the region’s top producers to rethink their pricing strategies.

According to the WS, Chinese consumers are shifting their interest away from the Médoc and towards St Emilion, Pomerol and Lalande de Pomerol.

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