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Quelle Horreur: Chinese Investor Renames Historic Bordeaux Vineyards

vinepair.com by Andrew Thomas 05/12/2017  

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The French take their wine seriously. So it’s not entirely surprising that those living in the country’s most renowned wine regions might resist change to their historic chateaux.

Just ask Chi Tong. The Chinese entrepreneur purchased four Bordeaux vineyards: Chateau Larteau, Chateau Senilhac, Chateau La Tour Saint-Pierre, and Chateau Close Bel-Air. His is not an unusual investment. Between January and March 2017, China imported more than 98 million liters of French wine — up nearly 16 percent from the same period in 2016. China’s growing wine market makes investing in chateaux increasingly appealing to entrepreneurs like Tong.

But the particulars of Tong’s acquisition are ruffling feathers in Bordeaux. After purchasing, Tong renamed the vineyards after animals with Chinese cultural significance. Chateau Larteau is now “Chateau Lapin Imperial” (Chateau Imperial Rabbit). Chateau Senilhac is “Chateau Antelope Tibetaine” (Chateau Tibetan Antelope), Chateau La Tour Saint-Pierre is “Chateau Lapin d’Or” (Chateau Golden Rabbit), and Chateau Close Bel-Air has been renamed “Chateau Grand Antelope” (Chateau Great Antelope).

The name change makes sense for Tong, given the animals’ symbolic nature in Chinese culture, and the fact that he will likely be marketing a good deal of his wine to Chinese consumers. Some locals are resistant, however. Jean-Marie Garde, chairman of the winemaker’s union in Pomerol, argued in French newspaper SudOuest that it would hurt the area’s reputation if “all the great chateaux were transformed into rabbits and antelopes.”

Regardless of what they’re called, Bordeaux’ reputation as a world-famous wine region is unlikely to change any time soon.

What’s in a name? It depends on who you ask.