In France, Chinese Swoop In To Buy Stake in Savoir-Faire

Chinese investors are buying up historic French chateaus, renovating one into a destination for wealthy Chinese wedding parties. The most recent purchase is Chateau Richelieu, the Washington Post reports:

King Louis XIII’s minister, Cardinal Richelieu, bought the prestigious vineyard in 1632 and installed his favorite mistress in the chateau. A generation later, the wines of Fronsac, Chateau Richelieu prominently among them, became standard fare for feasts at Versailles under Louis XIV. Ever since, Chateau Richelieu and its ancient heritage have been a pride of the Fronsac region, which runs along the Dordogne River 20 miles northeast of Bordeaux.

But times have changed, even in Fronsac. Chinese real estate investors based in Hong Kong and Beijing plopped down a small fortune last month and bought the place up — vineyard, chateau and pedigree included.

The deal was the second such purchase in just over a year. Another Chinese company, this one based in Qingdao, gobbled up Chateau Latour-Laguens, just south of here, in early 2008. It has since launched a multimillion-dollar renovation aimed at turning the middling wine into a high-end marque and the 500-year-old chateau into a destination for well-heeled Chinese wedding parties.

In both cases, according to specialists involved in the negotiations, the Chinese buyers sought precisely what France is richest in: history, elegance, tradition and savoir-faire. The new generation of wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs in effect came to France to buy a piece of the class, bloodline and heritage that were uprooted in their own country by the communism of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution.


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