Growers see red as China swallows vineyard


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The Independent Online

A Chinese gambling tycoon has infuriated Burgundy wine producers by buying a château carrying one of the most prestigious names in French wine.

The unnamed businessman, who owns casinos in Macao, has paid €8m, twice the locally estimated value, for the 12th-century Château de Gevrey-Chambertin and five acres of vines.

Although his purchase represents only a tiny fraction of the 1,000 acres of vines allowed to use the Gevrey-Chambertin title, local wine producers are stunned. Burgundian vineyards are divided into a mosaic of family ownerships going back for centuries. They are seldom sold to outsiders.

Chinese investors have snapped up dozens of châteaux in Bordeaux in recent years but none with names as grand as Gevrey-Chambertin. They have never previously bought more than a few small plots in Burgundy. "It is a despoliation. Our heritage is going out of the window," said Jean-Michel Guillon, president of the union of Gevrey-Chambertin wine producers. "How would the Chinese feel if a French investor bought 10 metres, or 50 metres, of the Great Wall of China?"

Gevrey-Chambertin is one of two villages in the Côte d'Or vineyards north of Beaune which is allowed to use "Chambertin" in its title. The Chambertin vineyards proper, covering only a few acres, produce one of the most prized and expensive red wines in the world, selling at over €100 a bottle.

The Gevrey-Chambertin vineyards, extending over more than 1,000 acres, produce an excellent, but less expensive, red wine. The five acres bought with the chateau include small plots of the Grand Cru and Premier Cru "Chambertin" vineyards. The rest carries the more generic title Gevrey-Chambertin.

The purchase, completed last May, was made public this week. The vines had been owned by a local family for 150 years. The property was valued locally at €3.5m. The wine producers' union offered €5m.

The name of the new owner has not been revealed but he is said to have casinos in Macao. The vineyard produces 12,000 bottles of wine a year, most of which is sold directly from the property itself.

Two Gevrey-Chambertin wine producers have agreed to manage the vineyard. It remains unclear what the new owner intends to do with the chateau, which is a listed building.