Bordeaux's wine museum Cité du Vin is partnering with the city of Beijing to build a 194,000-square-foot wine museum in China. The new museum, modeled on Cité du Vin, will be located 25 miles southwest of the Chinese capital's city center and is slated to open in 2021. The projected construction cost is $66.5 million.
"Wine is part of our world heritage," said Sylvie Cazes, president of the Foundation for Wine Cultures and Civilizations, which manages the Bordeaux museum. "Our mission is to share this great history with Chinese visitors."
The new museum's contemporary design echoes a cubist interpretation of St.-Emilion's skyline and will sit at the heart of the Zhong Pu Hui Wine Village, a development in the Fangshan District of Beijing. This area is already rich in culture, home to the Shidu Nature Park, Yunju Temple and the site where the "Peking Man" Homo erectus fossils were discovered.
Weixang Tang, 62, a Chinese businessman who made his fortune on inflight duty-free shopping, has been the leader of the effort to build the museum. The president and founder of the Zhong Pu Hui Wine Village, Tang was awarded the Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in 2015 for his long commitment to French culture. "China and France share a particular affection for gastronomy and the conviviality that comes with it," said Tang. He believes the rich cultural and gastronomic aspect of wine appeals to Chinese consumers looking for new experiences and knowledge.
The village currently includes several acres of vines. Tang has planning permission for 3 square miles of development, including two hotels, vacation cottages, a farm, restaurants, bars and shops, as well as a free-trade zone for Chinese and foreign companies engaged in wine, organic agriculture and, more generally, energy transition. There will also be a startup hub for entrepreneurs.
Tang started the museum project, but the Chinese government supported the project and is now the sole financial backer. The 72,000-square-foot permanent exhibition, an immersive experience, will build on what the team has learned in Bordeaux, but with additions specifically designed for Chinese visitors. Guests can visit five areas: What Is Wine?, Wine Around the World, the History and Civilization of Wine, Wine and the Senses and Lifestyle and Wine, which includes information on how to buy and drink wine, topped off with a quiz and tasting.
"I think this project is great because it has been promoted by someone with whom we have a great relationship and who has a real dual culture. He has one foot in China and one foot in Paris," said Cazes.
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Tang's ties to French culture stretch to his childhood during the Cultural Revolution. His family was separated and banished to the countryside for labor. Tang's mother wanted him to have an education and found a French teacher. Years later, he spent a year studying French at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Tang's appreciation for French wine inspired him two decades ago to plant the first vineyard in Fangshan. Today Chateau Bolongbao, with 173 acres under vine at the foot of the Wulanshan mountains, produces 11,700 cases annually, primarily Cabernet Sauvignon–Merlot blends. Since Tang's pioneering investment, more than 30 neighboring vineyards have sprouted up. And the district is linked to Beijing city center by subway, train and highways, an easy journey for tourists and entrepreneurs.
"We are at the beginning of a very long story. In my opinion, wine in China will be very important," said Jean-Marc Menant, general manager of the wine village.