Why stop at your favourite bottle of Provence wine, ask Santa for a Provencal vineyard instead…but would it be a Christmas dream or a Christmas nightmare?
Some years ago now, I wrote an article entitled: How to win at the wine game/Chasing the dream The basic point of the article, which was based on an interview with specialist wine estate agent Stephen Paillard and some insider tips from a couple of friendly English vignerons, was that it was next to impossible for outsiders to come in, buy a vineyard, and expect to make a profit. Paillard’s view, shared by my vigneron friends, was that wealthy investors were buying a lifestyle as much as a business.
Recently I spoke to Adam Dakin of Wine Objectives. I put the proposition to him that people who purchased vineyards had simply run out of Ferrari models to splurge their money on and were looking for another diversion. Adam disagreed. These days, he insisted, vineyards could be profitable, going concerns. He identified two ways of making money.
Firstly via large scale agriculture. A vineyard owner should see himself first and foremost as a farmer. A small number of bottles should be produced for personal consumption and to keep up the name of the vineyard, but the majority sold in bulk to negociants (businesses which specialise in buying grapes/wine in vast quantity). Ultimately the grapes would be destined for the booming rosé market. Secondly he argued that individuals working small estates themselves could produce amazing quality garage wines, for which they could demand high prices, and thus make a profit.
The second option keeps alive the romantic dream that it is possible to give up a career and a certain lifestyle and make a success living off the land doing something that one is passionate about. Thomas Bertrand and Caroline Jones are a case study of just how hard this is to do.
Now Thomas and Caroline were not former bankers with idealised concepts of getting their fingers dirty in the morning, followed by long relaxing lunches in the sunshine. Thomas was a business graduate who ended up running the flagship St John’s Wood branch of Majestic Wine. Caroline was an Australian ‘flying winemaker’ with a degree in viticulture/vinification and years of experience working in the industry. Together they had not only a dream, but also a business plan, to set up and make money from their own vineyard. When friend Jean Marc offered, in 2012, to sell them Domaine Rouge Bleu, a 15 hectare estate in Saint Cecile Les Vignes near Rasteau, they saw their opportunity.
Two years later, Thomas is combining a job working for a Chateauneuf du Pape vineyard with running Rouge Bleu. Caroline, who has just had their first baby, is labouring in the fields, trying to coach as much flavour as possible from the vineyard’s 60 year old vines. Their biodynamic philosophy does not make life easy. All pesticides and herbicides are out, instead the two try and work in harmony with nature, producing a range of Carignan and Grenache based red wines.
Their choice of village was smart – Saint Cecile Les Vignes a close neighbour of Rasteau, and Seguret, does not yet have the caché of a famous name. It is an area known for mass producing wine, accounting for some 10% of the Cote du Rhone village production. But, it’s also an area on the up, soon to be awarded its own appellation like its neighbouring villages.
So, do these two, intelligent, wine savvy, determined, enthusiastic people, who have bought smartly, and work every hour that god gives, make any money out of wine? The answer is not yet. With the purchase in 2012 they were saddled with a lot of debt, which they are in the process of paying down. The business plan though, is on course, and the day will come when all their work turns to profit. Meanwhile they delight in working in the fields driven by their passion to produce the best wine possible and supplement their income by running a Bed and Breakfast.
Those tempted to launch into a new career as a vigneron should heed the old adage: buyer beware. Deep pockets and boundless energy are needed. Still tempted? Then there are a couple of interesting Luberon properties on the market at the moment, which come with the potential to create a vineyard.
In between Cucuron and Ansouis this run-down old farm house is on the market with Provence immo for just shy of €700,000. There are currently 5 hectares of vines in production.
And this 280 sq m Cucuron farmhouse on the market with Home Hunts, offers another renovation opportunity for the brave, with over 50 acres of vines in production, priced around €1.3 million
Provence Guru – The Insiders’ Guide to Provence, top tips:
Interested in buying a vineyard and producing your own provence wine, then what better way to conduct due diligence on the prospective purchase the renting one of our luxury provence villas. The Guru has an extensive selection of the most reliable, luxurious vacation rentals on the market, stretching from Gordes villas in the Luberon to Saint Remy villas in Les Alpilles. Here’s the link to our villa listings. Not got time for a long term stay – then see our Provence boutique hotel guide, with Luberon boutique hotels, Aix en Provence boutique hotels and Avignon boutique hotels. Want to find out more about Provence wine? Then check out our Provence wine region page. Finally if all this reading is making you hungry see our Provence food pages.