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I write to you after an intensive week in China, on my way back to Bordeaux to taste the first samples of the promising 2009 vintage - a vintage produced against a backdrop of financial difficulties around the world that have, for the first time in modern history, caused a dip in the fine wine market. 2009 is also the year that I made the courageous decision to buy out BDXV and rename it BORDEAUX WINEBANK, to create one of the largest, specialised Bordeaux negociants in the world.
As I sit on here on the long flight back from Beijing, I started to think about how I got “here”.
Interestingly, when I created my first wine company – Vinhuset – in Norway back in 1992, the “new world” was very much in vogue and Bordeaux was considered as a sleepy, grey old town in the centre of a wine region that offered little excitement. Much has changed in Bordeaux and I am truly delighted and honoured to be part of the new wave.
I still remember my very first trip to Bordeaux in 1996, driving up the majestic driveway to Chateau Margaux - in my rented Renault Twingo - to take my first pictures of the famous “grande dame” of Bordeaux. How funny to think that, 14 years on, we are now one of the largest collectors of their wines!
That 1996 trip was a definitive moment in my career, as by the end of it, I was totally smitten with Bordeaux. As I drove from village to village to taste the wines, I would also enquire if there were any chateaux for sale, as I had already decided that one day Bordeaux would be my home (even though I didn’t have a penny in the bank at the time!). Why? Because Bordeaux is so completely unique – the complexity, the finesse, the elegance, the chateaux, the history and most importantly, prices that increase month on month!
Bordeaux wasn’t the only thing that I fell in love with at that time. In 1995 I married Marina and after our honeymoon in her native Singapore, we decided to set up a second home there. Asia was booming and their interest in Bordeaux, particularly in the 1996 vintage, was driving prices so high that the branch was always bound to break, as it did with the 1997 vintage. However, witnessing the enthusiasm and hunger for top Bordeaux wines firsthand was a clear signal that this was going to be an important market for Bordeaux in the future, once the economy recovered.
With my Norwegian operation in the safe hands of my partners, in 1998, I set about creating a business plan for the ultimate Bordeaux wine company in Asia. With no customers and no Asian contacts, this was a fairly ambitious project and entailed many trips to Asia to understand the market and find the right partners, but a driving force deep inside told me that this way the way forward.
Finally, in 2003, I found the right partner - the young and talented Tan Cheng Teik, who had just returned from seven years in San Francisco to start importing and distributing Californian wine in Singapore. Together, we created the BDXV Luxury Wine Company and took the important strategic decision to only ever source wines directly from the chateau. In addition, we added “ex chateau/Bordeaux” to our logo as a strong and dedicated commitment to quality.
BDXV quickly became the “ex-chateau” specialists of Asia, and on the back of this, in 2006, we decided to set up BDXV France – our first Bordeaux negociant company. With the financial backing of more than 300 high net worth private wine customers all over Asia, we set about an ambitious buying campaign which secured the biggest market slice ever of a top vintage (2005).
When Mr Tan opted for early retirement in 2009, I became sole owner of the group. At this point, it became necessary to consolidate and create a professional holding company for all of our operations.
With more than 80 million euros worth of wine under management, for both private and institutional collectors, the name BORDEAUX WINEBANK was a natural choice, as we secure and protect the best winesever produced in Bordeaux for generations to come.
As the pioneers of provenance in top wines from Bordeaux, we created and patented the term “Five Star Provenance” in 2009.
Every case in our management has been sourced ex-chateau and carries the unique “Five Star Provenance” certificate, reassuring collectors that the wine they buy will reach them in optimum condition, just as the winemakers intended.
Wine is fragile and wine collectors often don’t know where their wine has come from, how it’s been stored and transported or where it has been since the release from the chateau. Wines can change hands up to ten times before they are received, being moved from place to place, in and out of different temperature zones, “shaken and stirred”, but the wine collector won’t know – until he opens the bottle to taste it … and then it’s too late!
The objective of Bordeaux Winebank will always be to offer wine lovers around the world the possibility to collect, drink and enjoy the great wines of Bordeaux in the same condition as they would at the chateau, irrespective of whether they are in New York, London, Hong Kong or Tokyo. Even if they are buying 25 year old wines.
Having just spent another week in China visiting different cities, hosting presentations and wine dinners, there is no doubt that this country will play a very important part of the future of Bordeaux. For years, they have built up strong capital reserves and now, going from communism to capitalism, they have the money to spend and the determination to spend it on the best things in life … and the best wines in life are made in Bordeaux.
In China, I have met more passionate Bordeaux winelovers than in any other place I have ever visited and I am truly amazed by the opportunities that this market holds. China is not only important for the future of our company, but also the future of our global expansion. Later this year, we will open a new logistics centre in Hong Kong and we have already started working on local partners in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzen to set up Bordeaux wine clubs to educate the Chinese about the wines they love – the wines of Bordeaux and as 90% of these are red wine, we can safely say that the future is red!
If the 2009 vintage lives up to expectations, we believe that we can repeat what we did for the 2005 vintage and become one of the largest, most professional, market-driven wine companies in the world – with certifiable Five Star Provenance for each and every case we sell.