A Chinese billionaire, together with a group of investors, has bought a Bordeaux estate called Chateau Chenu Lafitte, in Cotes de Bourg, as a gift for his son.
One of the minority shareholders, Guolong Yin, has been running the estate since April 2010, when the purchase was complete – although negotiations began over three years ago. The identity of the main purchaser has not been revealed, although it is understood that he is a shipping tycoon based in China and his son – now the owner of Chenu Lafitte – is 20 years old, studies economics and politics in London, and is behind a chain of clothing stores across the UK.
Chenu Lafitte is a name that has been dormant for a number of years, owned by Philippe Darricarrère of Chateau Mille Secousses, also in Bourg. It was Darricarrère who sold the name, along with the vines and the 18th century chateau that had been his family home, to the group of Chinese investors. He has kept 42 hectares of vines for Chateau Mille Secousses.
‘Chenu Lafitte was an old name that we had the rights to use, and it made sense to sell it when financial difficulties forced us to break up our estate,.’ Darricarrère told decanter.com. ‘But I am happy that the new owners are investing in the property, and relations are very good between us. My son continues to work across both properties every day, and I visit them several times a week.’
The name Chenu Lafitte indicates that a similar impetus may have been at work as with the first Bordeaux estate bought by a Chinese company, Chateau Latour Laguens. This AOC Bordeaux property was bought in 2008 by Longhai International, and suggests that an association (in name only) with prestigious First Growth properties is a key attraction. Yin told local newspaper Sud Ouest this week that his objective is to sell the wine in China, and that he has chosen to put AOC Bordeaux on the label, rather than the less well known AOC Cotes de Bourg.
‘I believe it was the location of the estate, next to the Dordogne river, and its wonderful old park and building, that first attracted them,’ says Darricarrère, ‘and I know they are hoping to develop wine tourism on the estate. But of course this is also a wonderful brand name.’
Many observers believe this is the beginning of a wider trend. ‘Numerous Chinese investors have started to look at buying property in Bordeaux over the past few years,’ Sacha Lichine – former owner of Prieure Lichine in Margaux who is now running a wine property fund in Hong Kong – told decanter.com, ’They started off drinking the wine, but now they are wanting to own the vines as well.’
Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux