KARL HEINZ HAUPTMANN (55)
The enthusiasm for the wine sparked in Hauptmann in the early 90s in London, when banker at Merrill Lynch. Today, the trained economist produces around 16,000 bottles in his private wine cellar – 1,000 are annually purchased. Hauptmann has invested not only in wineries (Bulgaria, Romania, China). He is also involved in several other companies. This includes a Dutch company, a pharmaceutical company, specialized in cannabis products, thousands of cattle in Argentina and the Hotel Zoo on Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. The investor is practically constantly between The Czech Republic, Argentina, Bulgaria, Romania, China, France and Vienna.
A lucky accident brought investor Karl Heinz Hauptmann beginning 90s to his great passion – the wine. He began investing in the wine first in Bulgaria, then in Romania. His latest conquest is in the Chinese province of Shangdong, including illustrious neighbors: members of the Rothschild family and winery from the Napa Valley.
Marie Yvette Müller, proprietor of the “The Wine”Vinothekin Vienna Riemergasse,is а friendly person. Come what may, Mrs. Müller always has a smile on her face just like Karl Heinz Hauptmann, who after a short friendly greeting estimates a dozen bottles of his own wines on the table, while his colleague brings him her first cup of coffee. A not labeled bottle of white wine is immediately brought to the refrigerator. “We will taste this together”, says Hauptmann. “This is the first great wine,” he says, “Chardonnay 2015 Château Nine Peaks – the quality was good before, but this wine will show you how good we are doing in China. ”It is barely 10 a.m., but this offer sounds auspicious on this rainy morning.
Karl Heinz Hauptmann has invested about 20 million euro in its wineries in Bulgaria, Romania and China. “For some of them we had to pay more than we planned”, he says, “But we must not worry. “Some things are more expensive than others – like partridge dish”. Hauptmann loves partridge. In the early 90s he was an investment banker at Merrill Lynch in London. And right there a Japanese broker and an absolute “”wine freak” took him to the world of wine, which would play a key role in his future. Haut-Brion 1971, Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 1967, and Lafite Rothschild 1961 opened the door for him. “That was interesting – and then also affordable”, he smiles. And then Hauptmann became a broker: “When things happen too fast for you and that’s the case of every senior banker, you become a manager. This however brought me no joy. The 55-year-old investor was then 32.
After the upheavals in Eastern Europe in the early 90s Hauptmann went to Russia and then to Bulgaria. A little later Hauptmann and his partner invested in corrugated board, in medical devices such as bandages and chocolate, later in wheat, herbs and seeds – and also in wine. After a false investment in a Bulgarian winery, from which Hauptmann learned his lesson, he made his own research. In 1999 the investor traveled around with his friend, the proven expert Stephan von Neipperg – who came from Württemberg. Neipperg owns seven chateaus in Bordeaux – and later found a winery in Bessa Valley in Bulgaria. People have been producing wine in this area for 3,500 years. “We often forget that in the 30s Bulgaria was the fourth largest wine producer in the world.”300 hectares were bought from more than 1,000 landowners and about half of the area was planted. Today around 1,000 French oak barrels and 650,000 bottles are produced annually in Domaine Bessa Valley. And there will be more. “The biggest buyer is Japan”, says Hauptmann. “About 100,000 bottles are sold, and 95% the buyers are women. “Women buy not the label, but the taste” – he claims. “Meanwhile the sales in Japan rise up to 20% – only the red wine.”80% of the buyers are loyal and there are new ones every year”.
The reservations against wines from the East are still high – not only against the Bulgarian, but also against the Romanian wines. In Romania Hauptmann has a winery – Alira, where he further planted 80 hectares of Frenchvineyards. In 2009 the first Merlot was on the market. Today the winery produces about 400,000 bottles. “A difficult market”, says Hauptmann, “Not only is the country not well appreciated for reasons we cannot understand, but the inner market is semi-dry – the sweet red wine is very popular, and it is not possible to change the local tastes”. To save the business Hauptmann was producing kosher wine for a year, using orthodox winemakers and a rabbi for the biggest part of the production. “Normally, the kosher wine is more expensive and bad with a few exceptions. “We are surprised that ours is much better than expected – it is softer”.
The last chapter Hauptmann wrote in China: in 2007 in Shangdong province, where under the label of Chateau Nine Peaks – behind the newly built winery Great River Hill Winery raises a mountain range. Today approximately 320,000 bottles of wine are produced there. It should be two million – a quarter should be white wine. From 2018 we will also make money from this wine, says Hauptmann – and opens the already cool bottle. When we taste the Chardonnay it is already noon. This is a good time for the first sip of wine.