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French see red over Chinese wine grab

Date

Henry Samuel

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Wealthy Chinese buyers are driving up the prices for some French reds.

Wealthy Chinese buyers are driving up the prices for some French reds.

French wine connoisseurs are up in arms over China’s nouveau riche setting their sights on Burgundy’s finest, expressing fears that they are paying inflated prices for fashionable wines.

Local wine growers and experts claim that wealthy Chinese are more interested in splashing out and speculating than appreciating great quality wine - which has already led to price bubbles hitting Bordeaux’s top grand crus.

‘‘After having made the market price of certain Bordeaux explode in an irrational manner, they’re now logically interested in Burgundy and its niche wines,’’ Laurent Gotti, a Burgundy specialist, told Le Parisien. They want everything that is the most expensive and are prepared to fork out incredible sums.’’

He said that ‘‘not long ago, all they could talk about was Romanee-Conti’’ - the world’s most expensive wine whose annual output of 6000 bottles cost thousands of dollars each.

Last year, a single jeroboam of 1999 Romanee-Conti sold for more than $A72,000 at a Hong Kong auction.
‘‘Today, a dozen domains have taken their fancy. But they don’t really give a damn about what’s inside the bottle,’’ Gotti said.

The warning comes three months after a chateau producing Napoleon’s favourite red from one of Burgundy’s most prized vineyards was bought by the Chinese gambling tycoon Louis Ng Chi Sing.

An increasing number of Chinese are ruffling feathers in the conservative region when they arrive via minibus or in small groups.

One owner in Chambolie-Musigny said: ‘‘They never say hello or goodbye. All that matters is the price. If it’s 60 euros ($A74), they’re not interested. If it’s 250 euros, they take six. They don’t give a stuff about the wine itself. And if we refuse them something, they get aggressive. They’re spoiled kids who think they can act as they like.’’

Paul Vallin, a wine specialist and Asia connoisseur, said their approach reflected cultural differences. ‘‘It’s just that for them, wine is also a business,’’ he said. ‘‘In business relations over there, one is obliged to provide gifts of great value whose buyer will recognise the price.’’

The local gripes coincided with Burgundy’s famous annual wine auction at the Hospices de Beaune, a charitable organisation in the region’s wine capital, whose president this year is Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

The auction, which has been going for 152 years, saw a Ukrainian buyer pay 270,000 euros for a 350-litre barrel of Corton grand cru Charlotte Duma. The former French First Lady joked: ‘‘At 200,000 euros, I’ll deliver the wine. At 250,000 my husband [Nicolas Sarkozy] will deliver it with me.’’

Organisers said they had seen rocketing interest in the sale from Asian buyers. China is now Burgundy’s fourth largest export market behind Japan, Britain and the United States.

But Louis-Fabrice Latour, the chairman of the union of Burgundy winemakers, said talk of an Asian invasion was exaggerated.

‘‘In simple terms, [annual sales to] China represents less than one month of sales to the US,’’ he said.

The Daily Telegraph

6 comments so far

  • The chinese are the nouveau riche, and bring everything bad with them to the table. They're like the ghetto hip-hop stars with more money than taste who, the more they've got, the more they end up looking like pimps. No wonder the French are bristling.

    Commenter
    Wm. Bergmann
    Location
    Gold Coast
    Date and time
    November 19, 2012, 5:17PM
    • Ha,ha,.look who is talking as though the 'nouveau riche' from elsewhere including this nation come with good breeding.Pure prejudiced rubbish. The new nouveau riche everywhere most of the time let their money talk and behaved in churlish manners to put mildly. The chinese are being noticed because they come from the unexpected end. I cannot understand why in a market where the seller wants the highest price possible they are complaining about receiving high bids. They should then refuse to sell. No law stops them from doing that or whining from seeing the rich coming from the wrong part of the world.

      Commenter
      worjus
      Date and time
      November 20, 2012, 11:08AM
  • Love it! "if we refuse them something, they get aggressive. They’re spoiled kids who think they can act as they like.’’
    Pot/kettle/black!

    Commenter
    Neddy
    Location
    NQ
    Date and time
    November 19, 2012, 5:26PM
    • To worjus: but, the chinese are a very particular type of nouveau riche - nobody does it as badly as them - so corny, so kitschy, so wrong. If you were looking for a parallel, in music say, some of the competitors in the Eurovision contest trying to do Western music would be as cringe worthy.

      Commenter
      Wm. Bergmann
      Location
      Gold Coast
      Date and time
      November 20, 2012, 11:48AM
      • It's funnier when they start mixing it with coke!

        I saw a chateau mouton rothschild mixed with coke, and the sommelier just rolled his eyes and walked away mumbling in french.

        Commenter
        bob
        Location
        HK
        Date and time
        November 21, 2012, 4:01PM
        • Ah yes the old Coke with the 1st Growth myth......the stuff of urban legends. 30 years ago it was Japanese that were the target of xenophobic rants from within the wine industry and now it is the turn of the Chinese. Look through the pages of history and every dominant race has been criticized for being crass. No mater where you come from in the wine industry you should shut up and take the customers money because there is no assurance that that customer will be there tomorrow. Who cares where they come from or what they do with their money.

          Commenter
          bm1966
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          November 22, 2012, 5:36PM

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