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Domaines Barons de Rothschild, DBR CITIC Wine Estate (Shandong Company Limited),Qiushan Valley, Daxindian Township, Penglai City, Shandong Province.

Château Lafite invests in China, tells John U. Salvi, our Master of Wine and Correspondent from Bordeaux, who was visiting China and the new properties of the Domaines Barons de Rothschild on the other side of the globe.

Olivier Richaud. The Man for China.

I recently spent a month in China visiting all of the provinces in which the massive company of Changyu have invested, planted vineyards and built châteaux. Whilst in Shandong, which is where they have their headquarters, I took the opportunity of visiting other vineyards in the Province. Among them, and very much top of my list, was the Rothschild project.

The site that they have chosen, in the Qiushan Valley close to Penglai, is very beautiful indeed. Lush vegetation, rolling hills and beautiful views from their location. Here they planted the first vines in 2011 and will make, or by now have made, the first wine in September 2013.

The General Manager is Olivier Richaud, who was quite recently appointed and is now resident here and in charge of the project. He greeted me warmly and was happy to show me what there was to see. So far this is very little apart from the vines. No buildings of any sort, cellars, chais, lodgings etc., have yet been built, but he showed me on the drawing board where they would be and what they would look like. This year, for their first and purely experimental wine, they will use the facilities of a property the other side of the hill, Treaty Port. I did not have time to visit it, but it belongs to a gentleman who claims Scottish nationality.

From the site, as I have already said, there are wonderful views in all directions and sitting on top of a nearby hill is a massive complex, The Castle Hotel, which is owned by a Taiwanese. The area is already international!

The entire project has been kept small and far from grandiose. The vineyard will, when fully planted, cover 25 hectares on a 31 hectare property. They are planting the classical Bordeaux red wine grapes as well as Syrah. M. Richaud took great care to explain to me that the Estate is not aiming to produce Bordeaux style wine or in any way a copy of the wine made at their French properties, but intends to discover what style of wine is most appropriate and does best here with their climate, their exposure and the extremely clay soil. They will experiment until they are satisfied that they are making the best possible wine however long it takes!

My visit was at the end of July and they had just had over 300 millimetres of rain already that month. As far as they can ascertain from local records such a volume of rain has not fallen in July during the last 50 years. Already, without this rain, the humidity in Shandong is extremely high and mildew and other cryptogrammic diseases are among the greatest adversities of local wine growers. With this excessive rain, followed by temperatures of around 38°C, the attacks were already beginning and M. Richaud and his team were treating vigorously.

However he was at great pains to explain to me carefully that the vines were being treated much more completely and extensively than just what was being done now. All possible action in the way of preventive measures has been taken to reduce the phytosanitary pressure: drainage of each plot, de-leafing, and green pruning. It had been predicted that the summer might be relatively wet and it was for that reason that they did everything possible to delay the cycle of the vine and thus reduce the impact of the different destructive elements. He also stressed that the above phytosanitary treatments are only one element amongst many in the overall strategy of their vineyard management.

He was happily able to inform me later that the weather had been perfect at vintage time and that they were very satisfied with their first trial wine.
It was quite clear that this is at present an experimental investment to see what can be done. Other international groups are investing in vineyards in China. Shanxi is actively looking for investors and LVMH are looking at Hunan. M. Richaud made it clear that Domaines Barons de Rothschild are in no hurry and will take all the time required in an endeavour to make an exceptional wine. I would certainly like to visit again when they have some wine to taste and some cellars to house it in!
© by Helmut Knall
last modified: 2013-10-18 22:34:48

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