We are in the Sunny Times Polo Club in Yanqing, the green garden just outside of Beijing, and together with Dr Karl-Heinz Hauptmann, we are watching the preliminary round of the International Beijing Polo Open.
Hauptmann’s team Chateau Nine Peaks competes against the team of the host country China. Chateau Nine Peaks prevails and qualifies for the final. Karl-Heinz Hauptmann is satisfied, but the successful inves- tor has a clearly defined goal: Winning the tournament! He also communicates this to his sons Alexander and Leon, as well as the two professionals Joaquin Maiquez and Juan Martin Gerstle, analysing weak points and already explaining the tactics for the final against the Englishman, which his team – that much is anticipated – will win.
There is no time to rest. Karl-Heinz Hauptmann urges to leave as he wants to use the time until the final on Saturday to fly with his two sons, his older daughter Anna, his wife Yana and the other two polo players to the Shandong Province and check on his wine estate Qingdao Great River Hill Winery (brand name Chateau Nine Peaks or C9P). Hauptmann grows over 100 hectares of classic red Bordeaux grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc) and Syrah – and the
white Chardonnay variety. He produces almost 300,000 bottles every year on the estate. His goal is to expand the acreage to over 300 hecares and to produce up to 2 million bottles a year, a quarter of them are planned to be white wine. Hauptmann’s chief winemaker on the Chateau Nine Peaks, Philippe Ricoux, uses French winemaking techniques to create an elegant, old-world wine. Wines from the province of Shandong are not infrequently considered overpriced, however, Hauptmann’s Chateau Nine Peaks wines are an exception and win you over with complex aromas and structure and a very attractive price- value ratio.
His infallible intuition for rewarding investments, paired with analytical thinking have led Karl-Heinz Hauptmann in 2008 to invest in the Qingdao Great River Hill Winery. After conducting extensive soil surveys at over 50 sites, Hauptmann decided to locate his vineyard in Laixi, Qingdao in the eastern Shandong province. It is the combination of terroir and microclimate that makes the site unique. The winery is located at the foot of what many locals call Nine Peak Mountains, which was also the inspiration for the name of the wines. The winery is located at the same latitude as Bordeaux, which creates an ideal location for its Bordeaux and also the other varieties. The continental climate with daily highs of over 30 degrees to falls as low as 15 degrees at night preserves the acidity of the grapes. The terroir is a combination of lime and gravel that optimizes drainage and allows roots to penetrate deeper in search for minerals and nutrients.
Hauptmann is a man of numbers as he worked for a long time as Head of the European Equity Derivatives at Bankers Trust and Merrill Lynch in London. Born in Hesse he discovered the love for good wine only late in life. He mainly grew up with beer and ‘Äppelwoi’ (cider). In 1987, during a lunch with a Japanese broker, he enjoyed a 1971 vintage of Haut-Brion, a 1967 vintage of Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru and a 1961 vintage Lafite Rothschild, which awoke his passion for good wine. Hauptmann now has a private wine cellar with over 18,000 bottles and he buys about 1,500 each year, mostly second label wines of first-class chateaus or wines from lesser known winemakers with vineyards located close to the big-name wineries. Parallel to Hauptmann’s newly discovered passion for wine, the idea of investing in wine slowly matured.
In the mid-1990s, Hauptmann recognized the potential of the Balkans for his project. “Plenty of vineyards for little money”. With a PhD in economics he made his international investments through his family office Telor Capital Management in Prague and was not deterred by his first negative investment experience in a Bulgarian winery, which he soon ended due to a dishonest shareholder.
For the second attempt, he sought the right partner and in search of suitable land, Karl-Heinz Hauptmann travelled through Bulgaria with his friend Stephan Graf Neipperg, a very prominent wine expert who owns several well-known chateaux in Bordeaux. 130 kilometres southeast of Sofia, between the Rhodopi mountains and the river Mariza, the duo found what it was looking for so long. More than 100 soil samples were analysed, and it was clear: Here in the Bessa Valley, where the Thracians cultivated wine 3,500 years ago, Hauptmann & Neipperg’s new winery ‘Bessa Valley’ will be created. As it turned out a good decision. Today, over 600,000 bottles are produced every year on 140 hectares at Bessa Valley Winery, with a rising trend. The largest part is marketed in Bulgaria itself, the largest customer abroad is Japan, followed by China.
In 2006, Karl-Heinz Hauptmann decided to invest in Romania. In the area of Alimann he bought the 90-hectare estate Alira and built it analogue to Bessa Valley with vines he imported from France. The first Merlot was launched in 2009 already. Alira distributes over 400,000 bottles mainly on the Romanian market. According to Karl-Heinz Hauptmann fruitier red wine is in demand. In order to secure also a niche position in the market, Hauptmann has also been producing kosher wine since the 2015 vintage. For this, the innovative investor has secured the co-operation of several orthodox cellar masters and a ded- icated Rabbi in Romania.
In addition to his wineries in Bulgaria, Romania and China, Karl-Heinz Hauptmann is invested in several other companies. These include a Dutch-based pharmaceutical company specializing in the production of medical cannabis products, a farm with thousands of cattle in Argentina, and the Hotel Zoo on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. Who dances on so many weddings, is constantly on the move. Karl-Heinz Hauptmann seems to love life as a frequent flyer as much as investing in successful projects.