Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Will Chinese investors cause a Great Wall in Burgundy?

Overlooking the village of Gevrey-Chambertin, parts of Chateau de Gevrey Chambertin date from the 12th century. Along with the Chateau, Ng's purchase includes two hectares (five acres) of vines which include small plots of the Grand Cru and Premier Cru ‘Chambertin’ vineyards, with the rest generic Gevrey-Chambertin.
When it was reported last month that Macau businessman Louis Ng Chi Sing bought Burgundy’s rundown Chateau de Gevrey Chambertin, some locals declared it a national travesty. 

Jean-Michel Guillon, president of the union of Gevrey-Chambertin wine producers, reportedly asked: "How would the Chinese feel if a French investor bought 10 metres, or 50 metres, of the Great Wall of China?"

Actually, this isn't the first sale of Burgundy to Asians. Ten years ago, a Japanese sommelier, Koji Nakada, set up Maison Lou Dumont in Burgundy's Nuits-Saint-Georges area, and more recently, 28-year-old Chinese businessman Shi Yi bought 2 Burgundian hectars. And, at last count, Chinese have bought about 20 Bordeaux properties.  

Regardless, patriotic Guillon led a syndicate to buy the chateau for €5m. Opps, the Chinese foreigner Louis Ng paid €8m. 

The bigger long term concern is: there go the property values, but not down as in the past few years, rather sky-high up.

Realistically the sale price will affect inheritance taxes. France has complex inheritance laws dating from Napoleon's time and also is desperately strapped for Euros. The high sales price will affect future inheritances. Many worry that foreigners buying properties for these high prices will leave French families with no option but to sell, as they can't afford the taxes to pass it on to younger generations.

So, as property prices go up and inheritance taxes force Burgundians not to be able to pass property down to children, will Burgundy become a closthe French term for a walled vineyard used to protect the grapes from theft as well as improving the micro-climate—surrounded by a Great Wall to the French? 

Obviously, the chateau is in poor condition. Ng has mentioned that he plans to restore it starting in a couple of years.

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