Chateaux’ lucky Chinese names are not to all tastes

Chinese owners renaming their Bordeaux wine chateaux with lucky symbols – such as Château Lapin Impérial and Château Antilope Tibétaine – have upset a well-known writer.

27 February 2019
By Connexion journalist

Author Philippe Sollers complained to the city’s mayor over “the incredible change of names of some wines of terroir which have become appellations of Chinese folklore”.

The story made the main television news but most of the sympathy in Bordeaux was with the Chinese owners.

Emmanuelle de Boüard, from a communications agency that specialises in wine, is on their side. She said: “They have the right to call their property what they like.

“After all, there are plenty of chateaux which have been given English names over the years.”

She said Château Larteau was not a well-known name and renaming it Lapin Impérial could boost sales in China, where rabbits are regarded as symbols of happiness.

There are around 140 Chinese-owned properties among the region’s 7,500 wine estates.

Mrs de Boüard said most were very careful to do everything within the rules. “Indeed, when it comes to looking after the heritage of the region, most are better than many French owners,” she said.

Château Lapin Impérial declined to comment.

Christophe Chateau, of the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, said just one name must apply to one property, its vines and its winery.

Only properties which had two chateau names before 1983 could continue to use two names for the same property.

“If chateau A wants an additional name now, they have to buy chateau B,” he said.

“But if the owner of chateau A does not like the name, they can change it and call it what they like. It’s happened a lot.”

He said no change had been made to the appellations – nor to the rules governing how grapes can be grown – with the changes of name.

“The wine heritage of Bordeaux has been built up over the centuries,” he said.

“Having four chateaux change name to please Chinese owners or for the Chinese market is really a very small event.”

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