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Comment: Cautious Chinese chateau buyers avoid top Bordeaux appellations

Far from cherry-picking vineyards in the top Bordeaux appellations, official figures show Chinese investors have a taste for prudence when buying chateaux in the region - and deals are not pushing up land prices universally.

Data on Chinese purchases of 64 Bordeaux chateaux reinforces anecdotal evidence that many investors have sought value-for-money deals in the region’s vineyards.

It appears no Chinese investors have so far been willing to spend the going rate of up to 2m euros per hectare for vines in Pauillac, for example.

Of the 64 deals recorded by Bordeaux’s wine bureau, the CIVB, the vast majority are in so-called lesser appellations, with basic AOC Bordeaux the most popular.

Some estate agencies, such as Christie’s-affiliated Maxwell-Storrie-Baynes, have counted more deals than the CIVB’s official total. Michael Baynes told Decanter.com that he believes the true number of Chinese-backed vineyard deals in Bordeaux has topped 100.

But, the overriding picture is of investment in the middle tiers of Bordeaux’s wine industry. And it isn’t just Bordeaux; Noel Castinel, of Vinea Transaction, told DecanterChina.com recently that Chinese investors have sought more ‘affordable’ domaines and chateaux across France in 2014.

There have been media reports that Chinese deals for estates in Bordeaux have pushed up vineyard land prices.

However, the latest data from the Aquitaine government suggests there has been a patchy impact.

For example, Lalande-de-Pomerol and Haut-Medoc appellations, which have seen five Chinese chateau purchases between them according to CIVB data, saw average vineyard prices rise by 6% and 7% in 2013, to a top price of 240,000 and 100,000 euros per hectare respectively.

But, a correlation is not always so clear elsewhere. Vineyard prices for Bordeaux AOC ‘rouge’ have not changed since 2011 – at a top value of 21,000 euros per hectare.

And, Pessac-Leognan prices rose by 13% last year, even though Chinese investors have mainly avoided the area, according to CIVB purchase figures.

Looking ahead to 2015, we should expect more deals, according to Michael Baynes. ‘We are closing on another chateau to a Chinese investor in a week’s time so the market with the Chinese remains buoyant for us,’ said Baynes, who helped to negotiate the sale of Chateau de Birot in Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux this month.

Chart: Chinese-owned chateaux in Bordeaux

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