The Chinese firm now in control of Bordeaux’s tragedy-hit Chateau de La Riviere is moving forward with development plans, to include tea tasting and a spa at the estate, after an 'enormously difficult' few weeks.
Disaster struck Chateau de La Riviere (pictured) on 20 December, when a helicopter carrying ex-owner James Gregoire and Chinese businessman Lam Kok crashed into the Dordogne river just 24 hours after the pair agreed the sale of the estate and its holding company, la Cave de Charlemagne, to Kok and his Chinese business, Brilliant Group.
Both men are presumed dead, as is Peng Wang, who was onboard and was to be the new commercial director. The body of a young boy, thought to be Kok’s 11-year-old son, has been recovered.
‘It has been an enormously difficult time, but we are moving forward to fulfil the wishes of Mr Kok and his wife,’ said Xavier Buffo, technical director of Fronsac-based La Riviere for the past 15 years and now general manager.
Kok’s wife, Xiangyun Liu, did not board the helicopter, reportedly due to her fear of flying. Together, the pair ran China’s Brilliant Group, which specialises in tourism and luxury Pu-er tea from Yunnan Province.
‘Our plans are simple,’ Buffo told decanter.com. ‘This is a winemaking property, and we will continue to invest in and grow the quality of the wine, and alongside this develop the wine tourism plans as Mr Kok envisaged.’
The firm said on its official feed on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, that it became interested in La Riviere after the nearby city of Libourne was twinned with Pu’er in 2012.
Buffo said the group is keen to jointly develop wine and tea tastings at the estate. Chinese employee Yun Gong will spend two months learning tea tasting techniques in Yunnan before developing tasting classes at La Riviere from June.
Plans are also underway to upgrade the estate’s existing chambres d’hotes, and for a separate hotel and spa overlooking the Dordogne Valley, set to open in 2020.
‘We are right at the start of the hotel project, but the local officials in Libourne are working alongside us,’ Buffo said. ‘This is still very fresh and painful, but every one of us is determined to honour their memory.’
A new technical director, Manon Deville, will head up winemaking alongside Buffo. La Riviere’s existing commercial chief, Thierry Disclyn, remains in place.
The Gregoire family still owns 50% of négociant Vintex, which distributes La Riviere wines. Lam Kok’s wife remains president of Brilliant group.
According to French press reports, a body was found in the Dordogne at the weekend but has not been identified.
(Additional reporting by Nina Feng; Editing by Chris Mercer)
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux