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.
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.