News Special Coverage Industry Overview Supply & Demand Price Reference Forum

Bernard Magrez wants to change your perception of Chinese wine with ‘Huangding’ by NATALIE WANG16/08/2022  

Bernard Magrez, the savvy wine entrepreneur who already has four classified Bordeaux estates under his name, has made his wine journey eastward to China and launched an ultra-premium Chinese wine range that is bent on “changing overseas wine consumers’ perception of Chinese wine”.

Born out of a three-year joint project with Chinese winery Legacy Peak in Ningxia, the newly unveiled wine range is named ‘Huangding’ and consists of two wines – Huangding 9 and Huangding 5. The former is a 100% Cabernet while the latter is a blend of Cabernet and Merlot, retailing at a steep RMB 3800 (US$566) and RMB 1800 (US$266) per bottle, respectively.

Bernard Magrez introducing the release of Huangding, a joint wine project with Legacy Peak (pic: screen grab)

The twist as it turns out is unlike most made-in-China wines that are meant for local consumption only, the wines will also be exported for overseas market, using the French wine group’s network of distribution in France and elsewhere. “Our goal is to recommend to consumers the high-quality Chinese wines certified by Bernard Magrez name,” Jean-Clément Casse, Asia Sales Director of Bernard Magrez, explains when asked about the project.

“The initial aim of this project is to introduce high quality Chinese wines to wine enthusiasts outside of China. We will carry out a series of major campaigns in France for these two wines to raise the profile of Chinese wines and make the quality of Ningxia’s terroir known to the world,” he added.

Journey to the East

Bernard Magrez’s team in Ningxia at Legacy Peak winery (pic: handout)

The French multi-millionaire’s entry into Chinese local wine production follows the footsteps of companies such as LVMH, DBR Lafite and Australia’s Penfolds, which had all adopted Chinese terroirs to make local wines for the country’s over 50 million wine consumers.

Though China’s wine imports have been declining since 2019, exacerbated by the pandemic, interest for domestically produced wines are on the rise, aided by ‘Guochao‘ and homegrown wine brands’ growing renown in international stage.

Ningxia, the more internationally renowned Chinese wine region with strong government, aims to ramp up production to 300 million bottles by 2025, and 600 million bottles by 2030, as stated in a blueprint drawn out by the central government in Beijing.

For Bernard Magrez, the 86-year-old wine entrepreneur who has 42 wineries around 11 countries, his grape ambition in China seems to have far preceded the recent wine boom. In a recorded video introducing the wine launch in Shanghai this month, he recounted his earlier entrepreneurial endeavor to make wines in the country’s eastern Shandong province’s Qingdao more than 20 years ago.

Back then, Magrez invested in a vineyard in Qingdao to make dry white wines, which turned out to be a hit among consumers in Europe and the collaboration with Legacy Peak 20 years later as he describes “opens a new chapter”.

“The potential of Chinese wine market is undeniable. Chinese wine consumers are becoming more and more educated on quality wines,” he spoke convincingly.

Jean-Clément Casse and Liu Hai, owner of Legacy Peak, at the launch event in Shanghai (pic: CWS)

The collaboration with Legacy Peak, a family-owned winery with some of the oldest vines in Ningxia, started in 2019 and in the following three years, Bernard Magrez’s team including technical director travelled multiple times s to Ningxia to decide on winemaking style, barrel selection before its initial 2020 vintage release.

It’s unlikely the collaboration will stop at two wine releases and the French wine group did not rule out the possibility of eventually setting up a winery in China.

“We obviously want to do more in China. As travel restrictions between China and France loosen, we are thinking of sending our winemaking team to China in the near future to continue our development plans and consolidate the market,” adds Casse.