No foreign wine brand in China holds the cachet of Lafite. So it came as an eye-opener when I heard over the weekend that DBR Lafite would move from distributor Summergate, where it has been since I arrived in China six years ago, to competitor ASC. Today, I talked to Ian Ford, a founding partner of Summergate, about the end of the company’s relationship with DBR Lafite. First, part of an announcement he sent this morning (my highlights):
Summergate Fine Wines has chosen an amicable ending of its seven-year exclusive relationship with Domaines Baron de Rothschild – Lafite (DBR) in China. The relationship has been a very successful one for both parties. However, Summergate believes that the interests of its global range of quality producers, its customers throughout greater China, and all of its stakeholders will be best served by remaining independent and free of any single brand owner holding an equity interest in the company.
Ford told me that he found it “very flattering” that DBR Lafite was interested in Summergate but selling a stake didn’t fit with the company’s vision.
He also said Summergate would be bringing new Bordeaux brands into the portfolio. “My business partner is literally on a plane to Bordeaux tomorrow,” he said. ” W e will be meeting some key producers and will be in the market before long.” “
As for ASC, a source at the company said that while DBR Lafite was coming on board (the company sent an email to customers earlier today announcing the addition to the portfolio as of January 1), it would take no stake in the distributor, which kind of begs the question of why DRB Lafite would move. The source said part of the deal’s attraction was to be able to distribute wines from the Lafite vineyard under development in Shandong.