So you’ve watched one of those “Place in the Sun” or “No Going Back” programs about a British family who decide to become French Vignerons. What’s the truth behind the dream?
It’s true that anyone (with a bit of money) can own a vineyard. However, making it work and producing wine that people want to buy is another matter.
There are basically 3 methods.
1) Buy a going concern with everything set up including winemaker and vineyard manager. Hire a consultant and use your contacts to market the wine. This can work but only if you have a couple of million and some pretty good contacts.
2) Study winemaking and viticulture at a specialist college, then get a few years experience as a winemaker and viticuturalist working for someone else. Start small and work hard. Not a great option if you are of retirement age.
3) Buy a run-down vineyard property that appears cheap. Read a couple of books on wine. Get stuck in. Unless Channel 4 come in and bail you out, you will be bankrupt (and probably a divorced alcoholic) within 2 years.
So let’s assume you didn’t choose option (3). How do you find a vineyard?
There are a number of specialist agencies who sell viticultural properties. They are all found [here|Vitisphere->http://www.vitisphere.com/hall-28290-achat,vente,propriete,domaine,chateau,viticoles.htm]. SAFER is the government body that oversees the trasfer of all agricultural property in France. They also act as a agent but if you buy a vineyard, you will come up against SAFER. Their mission is to ensure that agricultural land does not become too overpriced that local farmers cannot buy it or that it is misused.
How much does a vineyard cost?
Like all property it is down to location, location and location. Champagne is the most expensive farmland on Earth, followed by top Burgundy appellations, Pomerol and Napa Valley. Why? Because these names on your label are a licence to print money.
However, this is a Pyrenees-Orientales website so lets get back to reality. A hectare (2.4 acres) or vines in the Roussillon can be bought for about 7000 €. Half the price of a garage in Chiswick!
However, to make money out of your vineyard you need at least 10ha if you are going to make your own wine, or 35ha if you are planning on selling the grapes.
They say that 99% of new businesses fail not because of profitability, but because of cash-flow. Winemaking does not have a good cashflow. Each hectare costs €2000 to farm, excluding picking. The packaging alone costs €1 a bottle and that is before winemaking costs (plan on 250k € for a decent small winery). In general you will not be able to sell that wine 12 months after harvest,
for white wines, and 2 years for red wines.
Does that sound a little bit frightening? How about something less risky?
Why not rent some vines and get your wine within a year?
Last year I bought a couple of hectares of lovely old vines with the idea of making wine for people who want the dream and not the nightmare. I’ve called it the Old Vine Club. You rent the vines, I make sure they are looked after (you can come and lend a hand with pruning, trimming and picking) and I make the make the wine for you with utmost care and attention. Interested? Have a look at [this|Old Vine Club->http://www.domainetreloar.com/Own%20Vine%20Club.htm].
Jon Hesford is the owner and winemaker of Domaine Treloar.
In their first year they achieved 3 entries in the Guide Hachette, France’s wine Bible and were among the best 30 wines in the world for Winter 2008, chosen by Jancis Robinson, perhaps the most respected wine critic on the planet.