elite group of political advisers known as the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

“He could not have gotten so big without the collaboration of the country’s biggest banks,” Victor Shih, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, said of Mr. Xu. “That suggests the potential help of senior officials with a lot of influence.”

Mr. Xu was also a power broker who socialized with the Communist Party’s elite families, according to a memoir by Desmond Shum, a well-connected businessman. In his book, “Red Roulette,” published this month, Mr. Shum recounts a 2011 European wine-tasting and shopping spree in which Mr. Xu took part, along with the daughter of the Communist Party’s fourth-ranking official at the time, Jia Qinglin, and her investor husband.

The party flew to Europe on a private jet, with the men playing a popular Chinese card game called “fight the landlord.” At Pavillon Ledoyen, a Paris restaurant, the party spent more than $100,000 on a wine spree, downing magnums of Château Lafite wines, starting with a vintage 1900 and ending with a 1990. On a trip to the French Riviera, Mr. Xu considered buying a $100 million yacht owned by a Hong Kong mogul, Mr. Shum wrote.

To supercharge Evergrande’s growth, Mr. Xu often borrowed twice on each piece of land that he developed — first from the bank and then from home buyers who were sometimes willing to pay 100 percent of the value of their future home before it was built.

property grew to account for as much as one-third of China’s economic growth. Evergrande built more than a thousand developments in hundreds of cities and created more than 3.3 million jobs a year.

cool down, the damage caused by Evergrande’s voracious appetite for debt became impossible to ignore. There are nearly 800 unfinished Evergrande projects in more than 200 cities across China. Employees, contractors and home buyers have held protests to demand their money. Many fear they will become unwitting victims in China’s debt-reform campaign.

Yong Jushang, a contractor from Changsha in central China, still hasn’t been paid for the $460,000 of materials and work he provided for an Evergrande project that was completed in May. Desperate not to lose his workers and business partners, he threatened to block the roads around the development this month until the money was paid.

“It’s not a small amount for us,” Mr. Yong said. “This could bankrupt us.”

Mr. Yong and others like him are at the heart of regulators’ biggest challenge in dealing with Evergrande. If Beijing tries to make an example out of Evergrande by letting it collapse, the wealth of millions of people could vanish along with Mr. Xu’s empire.

protested on the streets and complained online about delays in construction. The central bank has put Evergrande on notice.

And China’s increasingly nationalistic commentators are calling for the company’s demise. Debt-saddled corporate giants like Evergrande were given the freedom to “open their bloody mouths and devour the wealth of our country and our people until they are too big to fall,” Li Guangman, a retired newspaper editor whose recent views have been given a platform by official state media, wrote in an essay.

Without proper intervention, Mr. Li argued, “China’s economy and society will be set on the crater of the volcano where all may be ignited any time.”

Michael Forsythe reported from New York. Matt Phillips contributed reporting from New York.

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For France, American Vines Still Mean Sour Grapes

BEAUMONT, France — The vines were once demonized for causing madness and blindness, and had been banned decades ago. The French authorities, brandishing money and sanctions, nearly wiped them out.

But there they were. On a hillside off a winding mountain road in a lost corner of southern France, the forbidden crop was thriving. Early one recent evening, Hervé Garnier inspected his field with relief.

In a year when an April frost and disease have decimated France’s overall wine production, Mr. Garnier’s grapes — an American hybrid variety named jacquez, banned by the French government since 1934 — were already turning red. Barring an early-autumn cold snap, all was on track for a new vintage.

“There’s really no reason for its prohibition,” Mr. Garnier said. “Prohibited? I’d like to understand why, especially when you see the prohibition rests on nothing.”

Forgotten Fruits, a group fighting for the legalization of the American grapes. Showing off forbidden vines, including the clinton and isabelle varieties, on a property in the southern Cévennes region, near the town of Anduze, he added, “These vines are ideal for making natural wine.”

Memory of the Vine.” A membership fee of 10 euros, or about $12, yields a bottle.

With the growing threat of climate change and the backlash against the use of pesticides, Mr. Garnier is hoping that the forbidden grapes will be legalized and that France’s wine industry will open up to a new generation of hybrids — as Germany, Switzerland and other European nations already have.

“France is a great wine country,” he said. “To remain one, we have to open up. We can’t get stuck on what we already know.”

Léontine Gallois contributed reporting.

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Jim Clendenen, Santa Barbara Winemaking Pioneer, Dies at 68

In California, he learned the basics at Zaca Mesa, a leading Santa Barbara winery in the 1970s. There, he also met Mr. Tolmach, who would become his partner at Au Bon Climat.

Mr. Clendenen left again in 1980 to work harvests in Australia before another trip to Burgundy in 1981. “I learned that everything else I’d learned had been a waste of time, and that my life was going to be not loosely but accurately based on a Burgundian model,” he said on “I’ll Drink to That.”

As the Santa Barbara wine region expanded through the 1980s, Au Bon Climat outgrew its early home. In 1989, Mr. Clendenen was invited by Bob Lindquist, the founder of Qupé winery, to join him in becoming a tenant at a big, new winemaking facility being built at the Bien Nacido vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley.

Mr. Clendenen wanted to accept the offer in order to increase Au Bon Climat’s production capacity, but Mr. Tolmach opposed the move. Their partnership ended, and Mr. Tolmach departed to start the Ojai Vineyard.

Beyond chardonnay and pinot noir, Mr. Clendenen grew other, lesser-known Burgundian grapes, like pinot gris, pinot blanc and aligoté. He loved Italian varieties like nebbiolo, teroldego and tocai friulano, which he grew and sold under the label Clendenin Family Vineyards. He also explored areas like the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County and Oregon, selling those wines under the label Ici/La-Bas, French for here and there.

Mr. Lindquist and Mr. Clendenen’s cooperative agreement to share production facilities endured until Mr. Clendenen’s death. The winery was no more than a giant utilitarian shed, nothing like the grand tourist attractions that populate Napa Valley. It was not open to visitors — there was a tasting room in the city of Santa Barbara for them — but it was a prize stop for members of the wine trade.

Mr. Clendenen was a superb cook, and when in residence at the winery he prepared lunch for the staff and whichever guests happened to arrive in time. When the meal was ready, work stopped and everybody took a seat among the barrels at long, indoor tables to eat and sample whichever bottles were open, whether a new vintage or a 20-year-old chardonnay.

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Space Aged: Bottle of Wine From Space Station Could Sell for $1 Million

It was a cool and dark environment, but not your traditional wine cellar.

Not when it involved orbiting the Earth about 250 miles up at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour aboard the International Space Station, which is where a celebrated bottle of red wine from France’s Bordeaux region spent 14 months, according to Christie’s auction house.

The bottle, a Pétrus from the year 2000, is now being sold by Christie’s, which lists the estimated price of the bottle at $1 million. The company is calling it a “space-aged” wine for discerning connoisseurs, as private-sector monetization of space exploration and research ascends. Sip slowly.

“This bottle of Pétrus 2000 marks a momentous step in the pursuit of developing and gaining a greater understanding of the maturation of wine,” Tim Triptree, the international director of Christie’s wine and spirits department, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Renowned for its complexity and tasting notes of black truffles, black cherries, licorice and mulberry, the 21-year-old Pétrus is regarded as one of the best vintages in the world of wine. A 750-milliliter bottle typically fetches several thousand dollars.

Decanter reported.

Wine Spectator reported.

That same year, a rare bottle of Macallan whisky hand-painted by the Irish artist Michael Dillon sold for 1.2 million pounds (about $1.7 million in current U.S. dollars), Christie’s said. Earlier in 2018, two other rare bottles of whisky each sold for $1 million.

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French Wine Production Ravaged by a Devastating Frost

PARIS — A sudden frost, the worst in decades, has ravaged a French wine industry already reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and what is known among winegrowers as the “Trump tax.”

Candles and small fires glittered across vineyards and orchards last week, their pretty flickering belying the disaster, as winegrowers and farmers tried everything to ward off the frost cutting the life from newly formed shoots and buds. A layer of smog from the fires formed over Lyon and areas of the southeast.

But by the time the cold snap ended, destruction had spread across most of France’s winegrowing regions, including the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Loire. Jean-Marie Barillère, the head of a major wine industry association, told the French daily Le Figaro the frost had hit “80 percent of French vineyards.”

The frost followed a period of mild weather with the result that plunging temperatures caught rural France by surprise. Vines were the worst hit but almond and fruit trees were also affected, as well as some other crops, including beets and rapeseed.

imposed tariffs on French wines as a result of various subsidy and tax disputes with France. The import taxes contributed to a 14 percent plunge in global French wine and spirt exports last year. With air traffic way down, duty-free wine sales have also plummeted.

French government ministers fell over themselves promising emergency aid to stricken winegrowers and farmers. The French attachment to the land is fierce; no politician can afford to ignore this. Jean Castex, the prime minister, said the ceiling on an agricultural calamities fund would be lifted and “exceptional” assistance given.

Julien Denormandie, the agriculture minister, said the frost was “an episode of extreme violence that has caused very significant damage.” He convened an emergency meeting Monday with winemakers as well as fruit, vegetable and cereal producers to review the damage.

“The government will help us, but probably not to the extent of our losses,” Ms. Colombo said. “Right now, they are spending like there is no tomorrow.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the government of President Emmanuel Macron has decided to spend whatever it takes to compensate people for lost jobs and business. The final cost, and how the debt will be paid back, are unclear. It seemed a similar approach would be taken to the agricultural disaster.

“It’s incredibly hard, very violent,” David Joulain, an almond grower in the south, told Agence France-Presse. “I have the feeling one knee is on the ground. Every tree I have tested is dead, I am afraid that I have lost the whole crop.”

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