Chinese buyers are showing increased interest not only in French wines but also in its vineyards and castles.

"/> Chinese buyers are showing increased interest not only in French wines but also in its vineyards and castles.

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Chinese snap up French vineyards

Chinese buyers are showing increased interest not only in French wines but also in its vineyards and castles.

Chinese snap up French vineyards
Megan Mallen

A report in regional daily Sud-Ouest says that Chinese buyers are increasingly looking to own a piece of the Bordeaux region, one of France’s best-known wine areas.

China became the biggest export market for Bordeaux wines in 2010, overtaking the UK and Germany. 

Earlier in 2011 the Chinese state-owned conglomerate and owner of the Great Wall wine brand, Cofco, bought a 20-hectare piece of land in the prestigious Lalande de Pomerol region.

Now private buyers are also showing an interest. The newspaper reported on Thursday that while only ten estates have been sold so far, it knew of around 15 more that are about to be added to the list.

“For two years, every real estate agent has been showing Chinese and Hong Kong people round tens of different châteaux,” one agent told the newspaper.

“Often we don’t really know who they are. The buyers might be there or they send someone else.”

When it comes to what they’re looking for, it’s not clear whether the quality of the wine or the beauty of the property is uppermost.

“It’s difficult to know their strategy as it goes in all directions, it’s complicated,” said another expert quoted by the newspaper. “They buy beautiful properties and land and a bit of the charm of France.”

“When an American buys, he’ll take on a lawyer in Bordeaux and a technician to examine the ground and the machinery … With the Chinese, it’s not like that.”

The most recent high-profile Chinese buyer is actress Zhao Wei who reportedly signed a deal to buy the Château Monlot property on Wednesday.

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts