Chinese firm buys historic French chateau, vineyard

BORDEAUX (AFP) - A Chinese group specialising in rare teas and luxury hotels has bought a historic chateau and vineyard near Bordeaux with the aim of turning it into a high class tea and wine tasting centre.

The Hong Kong-based Brilliant group, whose interests range from Pu'er - a dark fermented tea from China's Yunnan region - to top-end resorts, acquired La Riviere chateau and its 65-hectare vineyard, the owners said.

"It's the biggest Chinese investment to this day in terms of value," in the wine-producing area, Xavier Buffo, La Riviere's managing director said but did not mention the sum.

The chateau dates back to the 8th century and is associated with Emperor Charlemagne. It was bought in 2003 by James Gregoire who then sold it to the Brilliant group.

Apart from "continuing to produce fine wines," the new owners "want to create a high-class area for tasting tea and wine," Buffo said.

They will build a hotel near the chateau, he said.

The Brilliant group owns four luxury "Relais et Chateaux" hotels in China.

The Chinese have developed a taste for the finest French wines and their extensive buying power has been credited with pushing prices for certain vintages to record levels.

In recent years they have increasingly taken to buying vineyards as well.

But the level of each transaction has generally been under 10 million euros (S$17.3 million).

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