(2 Jul 2012) LEADIN
As growth slows in their traditional markets, wine makers from around the world are eager to tap demand in China.
Hong Kong was the guest of honour at this year's Bordeaux wine festival (June 28 until Sunday July 1st) and locals are hopeful that Chinese money and enthusiam will help the struggling French wine industry.
Tourists from mainland China and Hong Kong are now regular visitors to vineyards in France's famous wine producing region Bordeaux.
Newly wealthy Chinese are keen to learn about French wine, as knowledge about this prestigious product is highly prized back home.
In this showroom, the visitors are being taught how to look, smell and taste the rarest white wine in the world. Only 3000 bottles of this 'nectar' are marketed every year.
One visitor says "I like to taste wine. I started with my husband and friends. Little by little I acquired knowledge and I can taste aromas better now ".
Another visitor is already an expert on the subtle flavours of French wine.
" What I like about Bordeaux's wine is the complexity. There are a lot of flavours, like cherry, berries, fruits�It is different from other regions such as Australia or New World wines which are a little bit simple. Bordeaux has more "character" "
Last year a report by UK-based International Wine and Spirit Research forecast that China's wine consumption will double to 250 million 12-bottle cases by 2016, from 125 million in 2010. If growth rates remain unchanged, the country could become the world's biggest wine market in the next 20 years, the report said.
China's status as the world's biggest and fastest growing consumer market has drawn many foreign businesses in pursuit of big profits.
Laetitia Guix de Pinos a Guide at Ch�teau Prieur� Lichine says that tourists and business people are now regular visitors and that Bordeaux is now a 'must-see' destination for many Chinese.
" Three years ago we were receiving a few groups of Chinese professionnals but very few Chinese tourists. Today, it is the opposite. We are still welcoming a lot of professionnals but also a lot of young people, notably, who are travelling a lot and for them, Bordeaux has become a major destination. It is not only Paris or the French Riviera, I think that Bordeaux is now part of the top destinations. "
In China, when it comes to foreign wines, red wine from France is prized much more than those from other countries even those from other Old World producers Italy and Spain.
For the really wealthy, nothing says success like ownership of a French vineyard in Bordeaux, which has UNESCO world heritage status.
These investors are touring a chateau with a view to purchasing.
Although reluctant to give their names, they were happy to allow our camera to follow their tour.
These investors come from Sichuan province. They have been selling Bordeaux wine for only 6 months but they are already convinced that owning a ch�teau in Bordeaux is very good for their image.
" First, we are here to make wine. And particularly products that will please the Chinese market. Then we want to develop wine tourism. That's why we need a beautiful "ch�teau" with a very nice French atmosph�re. With a mood that Chinese customers will enjoy . " explains the investor.
In the last three years, several chateaux have been bought by Chinese investors according to the Bordeaux wine association.
Rumour has it that the Chinese are now buying all the properties of the region. In fact, only 20 out of 8000 have been acquired by Chinese buyers.
In Bordeaux city the Garonne river docks is the location of the 2012 Bordeaux wine festival (June 28 -July 1).
Andrew Wong, is the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development for the Hong Kong Governement.
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