Chinese nationals are buying Australian vineyards and wineries at unprecedented levels, with up to 10 per cent of South Australia's iconic Barossa Valley now in Chinese hands, according to the Australian broadcaster ABC News.
The news channel quoted Barossa Grape and Wine Association chief executive officer James March as saying that between 5 and 10 per cent of the vineyards and wineries in his region were now owned by people from China, often in partnership with existing landowners.
March said the combination of Chinese investment and local expertise on viticulture and winemaking had led to successes in many wineries.
"Where the advantage has come from Chinese investment has been in that route to market, so bringing in wholesalers and customers and having local Chinese-speaking staff has really helped their brands," said March.
While a lot of the original Chinese buyers were looking for trophy assets, the more recent purchases were driven by the increased demand for Australian wine in China, with property buyers wanting to stabilise the supply of bulk and bottled wine for their Chinese market.
According to Stephen Strachan, director of Langley and Co which deals with wine industry acquisitions, other well known regions like McLaren Vale, Yarra Valley and Margaret River are starting to attract interests from Chinese investors.
In the past 12 months, Strachan added, Chinese investors had shown interests in some of the more commercial regions in Australia, in the Riverland in South Australia, the Murray regions in Victoria and in New South Wales.
"They are specifically going into those regions because they are looking to secure lower-priced wine to be able to take into the markets they've developed in China," said Strachan.
Australian wine exports to China increased 24 per cent in the 12 months to 30 September and were worth AUD1.06 billion.
Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board does not isolate vineyards and wineries in its 2017 Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land. As of June 2017, its records stated 13.6 per cent of all agricultural land was foreign held, with 2.5 per cent held by residents of China.
(the writer can be contacted at: SLawMathews@thewinechronicle.com)