Denis Foynes – It is hard to say if this will be a good year for France’s wine harvest but it is undoubtedly a good year for French wine sales and not just for the bottles but entire vineyards are going fast.
This is because more and more Chinese buyers are developing a taste for wine. This year, at the yearly wine convention, VINEXPO, nearly 7% of the visitors were from China and the Chinese now consumed US$1 billion of wine each year.
The Chinese also now own 50 of Bordeaux’s 10,000 top line vineyards. However, this is causing concern amongst the French. Jean-Michel Guillon, a 30-year veteran of the wine business explains that, “each winegrower is also a winemaker.” Many experts believe that the Chinese are buying the vineyards for only an investment and lack the passion required for the product.
There is even resentment in France against this new trend. “Our heritage is going out the window,” explains a local leader of a wine association. “What would the Chinese say if Europeans started buying 10 or 20 meters of the Great Wall of China?” he added.
There are fears that this resentment fueled the racist attacks on six Chinese wine students in Bordeaux last week. Three people remained in police custody under investigation for “acts of violence” with three aggravating factors: using or threatening to use a weapon, being drunk, and discrimination linked to race.
“It’s an unspeakable act,” French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll stated at VINEXPO. “It’s the image of France which has been dented with these xenophobic attitudes.”