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A Chinese first growth coming soon?

The fact that over 100 Bordeaux châteaux are now in Chinese hands, begs the question – will they ever own a First Growth?

Chen Miaolin celebrates buying Château de Birot.

“I’m sure they will, and quite a lot are asking for Grand Crus, though it is more difficult to gain access to that,” said Karin Maxwell, partner at Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes, exclusive affiliates of Christie’s International real estate in Bordeaux.

Finding out what is actually on the market can be tricky, as the grander the property the more private the negotiations tend to be. “That’s true of anyone from any nationality,” said Maxwell. “You have to be very discreet about giving information. There are a lot of hoops to go through, and different cultures find that more difficult.”

Maxwell’s first experience of Chinese interest in the region beyond simply drinking its produce was in 2008 at a conference in Hong Kong where she spoke about buying vineyards in Bordeaux. Things were slow at first, but started to take off in 2010.

Motives for buying into the region vary. “Some of our Chinese clients buy châteaux because they are passionate about wine and have incredible collections,” she explained. “It gives them the opportunity to come to Bordeaux and be part of the wine scene. For others it’s an investment for their business and a way of diversifying.”

In January Chen Miaolin, owner of China’s largest private luxury hotel group and reputedly worth US$1.1 billion bought Château de Birot in the Côtes de Bordeaux from the Fournier-Castéja family. Only a few weeks earlier packaging tycoon Zhou “James” Yunjie, snapped up the 20 acre Château Renon also in the Côtes de Bordeaux.

While the Chinese are buying all over the region, the Entre-deux-mers is particularly popular according to Maxwell. “There are some beautiful properties and the prices are not too high,” she explained. Having somehow gained the trust of the Bordeaux establishment, maybe a Chinese billionaire is plotting the ultimate bid. Officially none of the First Growths are for sale, but who knows?

Jinshan Zhang proud new owner of Château du Grand Mouëys

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