Hong Kong tycoon Peter Kwok has increased his stake on Bordeaux's Right Bank, acquiring St.-Émilion Grand Cru Classé Château Bellefont-Belcier for an undisclosed sum from John Renos. The 33.4-acre estate has plots on the fabled St.-Émilion limestone plateau and south-facing clay-limestone slopes. Total production is 5,000 cases a year.
This is the seventh estate Kwok has added to his Vignobles K portfolio, which includes Château Tour St.-Christophe, Château La Patache, Enclos Tourmaline, Enclos de Viaud, Château Le Rey and his first Bordeaux estate, Château Haut-Brisson, purchased in 1997.
He's steadily improved the wines at the estates he’s acquired. At Tour St.-Christophe, he undertook massive investments to rebuild the terraced vineyards. But Bellefont-Belcier, located between Châteaus Larcis Ducasse and Tertre Roteboeuf, shifts Kwok's vineyard holdings onto another level.
"Among the great châteaus, Château Bellefont-Belcier represents everything that I love about this region," said Kwok in a statement. "Its gently sloping hills, grand château and majestic trees make it a unique place in St.-Émilion. I cannot imagine a better way to do my part contributing to St.-Émilion than by taking care of this amazing property. It's my honor to do it."
While the château is a solid performer, it hasn't quite lived up to the potential of its terroir, having changed hands several times in recent years. It was acquired by Dominique Hébrard, Alain Laguillaumie and Jacques Berrebi in 1994. They sold it to a Chinese steel magnate in 2012, but shortly after the sale, his business floundered and he sold the estate to Renos in 2015. Renos, a businessman based in Cyprus, soon had misgivings about diversifying into viticulture, and Kwok moved into the picture.
Prior to closing the deal in December, new general manager Jean-Christophe Meyrou and his team managed the 2017 harvest, following previous director Emmanuel de Saint Salvy's departure for Clos Fourtet. Meyrou told Wine Spectator that with one vintage at Bellefont-Belcier under his belt, their team is focused on a long-term strategy for improvements.
The new owner also plans for the estate to eventually offer luxury B&B accommodations. "It will make an important addition to our wine tourism offer," said Meyrou. Chateau Tour St.-Christophe offers private dining and accommodation, as well as a variety of visits and tastings at the Kwok estates.
A Vietnam-born, Berkeley-educated businessman, Kwok made his fortune in China. He is currently chairman of CITIC Resources Holdings, the energy subsidiary of CITIC Group, China's behemoth state-owned investment company, as well as managing director of his own company, USI Partners. USI owns Starwood group hotels in China and Tibet. Kwok also owns a solar panel farm in Tibet.
He's a keen francophile and has shared his passion for French wine with his three children—Elaine, Karen and Howard, all Harvard grads—divvying up his châteaus among them. "The idea is that the châteaus be more than just a business, but a family connection, a place where they come together as a family," says Meyrou.
Elaine works for Christie's, Karen has a career in fashion and Howard works with his father, visiting the vineyards regularly.
"The village of St.-Émilion reflects UNESCO's heritage in all facets of its identity: the village, the people, the landscape and industry,” said Kwok. “Therefore, rather than in terms of privilege or duty, I see it as an honor for me and my family, to be part of the St.-Émilion community for the last 20 years."