Back in 2016, rumours had been flying about billionaire internet founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, and his then latest big buy of Château de Sours, a prime real estate vineyard located in St Quentin de Baron, France. Mr Ma bought the property from British entrepreneur , Esme Johnson the founder of Majestic Wine Warehouse.
Ma’s decision to buy the property catapulted its popularity in global headlines with the public wondering and guessing what would happen next. Some rumours flourished of an installation of a lighting system that could enable Ma to switch on specialised garden lights from his helicopter while flying overhead; other reports indicate he will build a five star hotel within the estate.
Speaking of the property, the estate has since then grown from 70ha estate at the time of sale to 200ha after the billionaire purchased two adjacent pieces of land. According to the manager, Tom Vercammen, It turns out that running huge estates for extremely discreet billionaires needs a very specific skill set, and he has it. Apart from managing the vines, he was hired for his land management experience and made De Sours a spectacular marvel. “‘When we arrived, much of the land was either vineyard or was left wild and overgrown. There were extensive forests but many of the trees had beetle infestations or other issues,” Tom told Jane Anson, a Bordeaux correspondent for The Decanter.
The Decanter reports that Mr. Ma, who is estimated to have a personal wealth of US$21.5bn, bought Château de Sours for an undisclosed sum and set about renovating the château’s façade, courtyard, garden and cellars. Founded in 1792 by the Comtes du Richemont, Château de Sours produces red, white and rosé from Entre-Deux-Mers.
A visit to De Sours will leave you feeling more like you are exploring a farm in Argentina or Chile, with mile after mile of carefully constructed landscapes where vines play only one part of it all. High fences and security tower the lands at various points with the main entrance littered with large oak casks. As reported by Jane Anson, there are six full-time gardeners who have planted 20,000 roses. Also newly arrived are 25,000 hortensias, 5,000 fruit trees, 6,200 oaks, 20 beehives of honeybees and 70 hives of bumblebees.
A nearby kitchen garden can be seen which grows vegetables for feeding 55 Hungarian Mangalitsa pigs, 11 Scottish Highland cattle, 100 chickens and Noir de Gascogne turkeys. Ma hopes to establish his wine as a Vin de France, with all the flexibility that implies. To date, only occasional limited releases have been sold within China, via the FreshHema online shopping platform owned by Alibaba.
The long-term strategy has been unclear until now.
A new winery is due for completion in 2022, the same year the new-look wine is due to be released onto the market. Trellising has been raised across the vineyard, vine stakes have been replaced and all pesticides and herbicides have ceased since 2018, with horses ploughing 12ha of vines. They have all six red Bordeaux varieties planted, but they are also planting grapes from northern Portugal and northern Spain, such as Verdelho and Alvarino, as well as Colombard, Clairette, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
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