Chinese businessman William Wu has bought control of Swartland Winery for an undisclosed fee, marking rising interest from China in South African wine.

Vines in South Africa’s Swartland (Image: Andrew Jefford)

Swartland Winery‘s 70 shareholders agreed to sell a 51% stake in the group to Chinese investor William Wu, who owns one of the China‘s biggest security firms, according to the Independent Online news outlet.

Details of the deal could not be immediately confirmed by Decanter.com, but Wu was quoted as telling the Bloomberg newswire that there was a ‘ready demand’ for Swartland wines in China.

Swartland Winery, which was built in 1950, produces the equivalent of 24m bottles of wine annually from its base just outside of Malmesbury. It sources grapes from growers spread across an area of 3,600ha.

It has a broad portfolio, from entry level varietal wines, including Merlot, Carbernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, under the Lion’s Hill brand to its limited release Bush Vines collection.

Swartland Winery already exports around 55% of its wines and it was not clear whether supplies would be re-routed to service China or whether spare capacity could be found.

Other Chinese investors have already shown an interest in South Africa.

In 2013, Chinese firm Perfect China bought 51% of the Val de Vie estate, including wine cellar, 21ha of vineyards and historic manor house, in Cape Winelands. Financial details were not disclosed.

Exports of South African wine to China rose by around one third between 2008 and 2013 inclusive, to 5.7m litres – equal to 7.6m bottles, according to South African wine industry analytics body, Sawis.

But, shipments dropped in 2013 from almost 6m litres in 2012, which reflects a general decline in China’s foreign wine imports as the country’s importers reduced orders in the face of Chinese government austerity measures and overstocked warehouses.

Written by Chris Mercer