China wine fund eyes California targets

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  • Friday 16 November 2012

A US$100m wine investment fund set up by China's Hina Group has no shortage of potential targets among top wineries in California, according to an adviser.

Napa Valley

Private equity firm Hina has recruited Richard Wollack, founder of Premier Pacific Vineyards, to scope out acquisition opportunities, and his phone is hotting up.

'Every day we're getting more contacts from properties, some not officially on the market and some that are,' Wollack told Decanter.com.

California represents something of a new departure for China's wine property investors, after several years of focusing on Bordeaux.

'We're looking at existing producing vineyards, ones that are already developed in the high-end space, in places like Napa, Sonoma and other highlands areas in California,' Wollack said, without naming specific targets.

Wealthy Chinese wine drinkers appear to be having their own 1976 Judgement of Paris moment, realising that top Cabernets from California can rival those of Bordeaux. The fund also reflects China becoming more serious about wine.

Not that all of the deals sought by Hina's fund have drinking top of mind. 'We represent investors looking for a good long-term investment,' said Wollack. 'Vineyards in Napa have never gone down in value, and it's basically planted out.
 
'There's also interest in potentially buying a brand or creating a wine from acquired vineyards that could be brought back to China and given as a gift, but the fundamentals are good investment,' he said.   

Those looking to sell in California range from second generation owners not keen to follow in the family footsteps, to some suffering financial difficulties.

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