China’s second richest man Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba, has become the latest investor from his country to snap up a French vineyard.
The self-made billionaire has bought the Chateau de Sours vineyard in the famed wine growing region of Bordeaux, which boasts a castle dating back to the 18th century and an 85 hectare property which produces 500,000 bottles of wine a year.
He purchased the vineyard from Briton Martin Krajewski via one of his Hong Kong-based businesses, according to a legal notice.
The announcement says that the new manager of the vineyard, for Junbao Limited, is Kien Leong Lee, 40, who is also chairman of Dragonite International Limited.
Dragonite describes him on their website as a specialist in vineyard management and wines investment.
The Chateau de Sours produces red and white wines and says on its website it is also “leading a renewed global interest in top class rose”.
More than 100 properties in France’s southwest wine-producing area are today owned by Chinese tycoons looking to diversify fortunes built upon real estate, jewellery, industry or tourism holdings.
This makes up 1.5 percent of the region’s 7,000 vineyards.
Part of the appeal for the Chinese is the status that comes with possessing a noble French chateau as part of their wine-growing property.
The chateaux with old towers, extensive cellars, symmetrical architecture and carefully tended gardens are especially sought after.
But the business potential is the key consideration.
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China is the biggest consumer of red wine in the world and remains the top export market for Bordeaux.
Most of the properties they have pocketed — like Chateau de Sours — do not make ‘grand cru’ wines, but instead produce relatively unknown labels at the cheaper end of the market.
Jack Ma, 51, a former English teacher who soared to the top of the super-rich lists after creating Alibaba and is now worth $21 billion, committed in December to protecting the jobs of the 18 people employed at the property.
Krajewski, who bought Chateau de Sours in 2004, threw in the towel for lack of profitability, according to local media.