French floored by China bidder

French floored by China bidder

As stunts go, it was an expensive one. Wine lovers might even call it barbaric. Last week a Beijinger bid at auction for two bottles of rare Domaine Emile Beyer wine, which is produced in Alsace. He paid $30,000 for the bottles, and then promptly smashed one on the floor beneath him. He then advised his audience that he did so as a protest, to persuade his fellow Chinese to drink domestic wine rather than foreign imports.

As we pointed out in WiC161, local winemakers have been losing ground to European Union wines. European wine producers have increased their market share in China from 4.94% of sales in 2008 to 14.32% last year, and in the first quarter this year EU imports grew a further 24% in volume terms.

Such is this growth that the China Alcoholic Drinks Association is accusing the EU of dumping its red wine in China, taking advantage of subsidies to charge below-cost prices.

But the controversy cuts both ways. Back in France, local media is up in the arms that a Chinese buyer has outbid a French winemaker to purchase a vineyard in the hallowed Burgundy region.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Macau casino executive Louis Ng has bought Chateau de Gevrey-Chambertin for around $10 million, topping a bid by Frenchman Jean-Michel Guillon. Ng is already getting a rough ride, with local politicians accusing him of “potentially destroying France’s heritage”. The French fear that more and more of their great vineyards will fall into foreign – and particularly, Chinese – hands.

But Ng denies that his vineyard move will damage the industry, instead issuing a statement that he plans to “bring this enchanted property back to its full former glory”.

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