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China Drinks to “Dragon Boat” Wine




They’ve been making wine at Chateau Beychevelle near Bordeaux for over 150 years.

But since 2008, the price of a bottle of their best wine has soared – mainly thanks to demand from China.Vintages used to cost around 15 euros, but in 2010 they hit a new record – three times that.

The wine estate’s Managing Director, Philippe Blanc, says they estimate up to 60% of their wine is being sold to China.

“We don’t push toward China because who is selling to China is our customers and our customers are the wine merchants from Bordeaux. But then wine merchants from London, from Switzerland and sometimes from New York can deal with China, as well, and that overpowers us.”

Back in 1989 it became one of the first wine estates in the region with Asian shareholders, Japanese drinks firm, Suntory.

Now they receive more Chinese visitors and they visit the region several times a year.

Chateau Beychevelle isn’t known by its name in China, instead it’s known as the “dragon boat” wine, thanks to its logo. And while the logo isn’t anything new, it might account for some of its popularity with Chinese buyers. Of course, dragon boat races are popular in Hong Kong and especially in the south of China, dragons are associated with good fortune.

Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Wine, Serena Sutcliffe, says the Chinese are increasingly expanding their western tastes.

“There are more wines they know, more wines they recognize, not only in France, where there’s a whole lot of other chateaux now that are classified, but are not the first growths that they’re looking for like Ducrut, Beaucailloux, Angelus, Beychevelle, Lynch-Bages, etc.”

But Beychevelle doesn’t want to become a wine only found in China.

“In our view it can be a little bit dangerous for the brand and we would lose the world view and the brand would disappear from the world radar.”

Expansion into new markets hasn’t changed the way Chateau Beychevelle is made.

The higher price might dismay the wine’s loyal customers.

But it will certainly benefit the estate’s shareholders – and the producers, who say it will allow them to meet the challenges of making wine in a climate that’s changing environmentally and economically.

Bottom line: Chateau Beychevelle near Bordeaux was one of the first wine estates in the region to have Asian shareholders, and in recent years the price of a bottle of its wine has soared on the back of demand from China.