Thursday, 19 January 2012

Guest Spot: Alexander Hall, Vineyard Intelligence

If you have ever wanted to leave the rat race and buy a vineyard, or you simply want to try something different and invest in a Chateau and a few always need professional, reliable advice, backed up by someone who is aware of current deals, offers and market trends. It can be best to enter these kind of dream adventures with your eyes open! Sometimes you might also need to know more details such as the €€ per hectare of Pomerol versus Castillon or the €€ per hectare of Pauillac versus Puisseguin.
THE man to ask is Alexander Hall of Vineyard Intelligence. We are very pleased that he has answered a few questions here:

1. So Alex. tell me why you ended working with wine?

My stepfather, who is originally from New Zealand, bought some land in Marlborough and started a vineyard, which we have since sold to Jackson Estate. During a sabbatical in 2002 I headed down to Marlborough and ended up working for Ivan Sutherland at Dog Point Vineyard. I loved it and made up my mind before heading back to London that I was going to find a way into the wine business. I originally thought of buying my own vineyard but soon realised that this was out of reach financially. However, I quit my job, sold my house and moved to Bordeaux in 2004 and have been here ever since. I started working with Gavin and Angela Quinney at Château Bauduc, before moving to work with Thierry Valette at Clos Puy Arnaud in Cotes de Castillon and then with the Bécot family at Château Beau-Séjour Bécot in Saint-Emilion.

2. Did you have a specific person or mentor in wine?

No one specific but lots of people who have helped me along the way, including Ivan Sutherland, at Dog Point in Marlborough, for getting me started; Gavin Quinney at Château Bauduc, for offering me the chance to come and work in Bordeaux and for lots of subsequent advice and encouragement; Thierry Valette for introducing me to the craft of handmade wines; Wendy Narby of Insider Tasting for countless contacts and referrals and many more.

3. You started Vineyard Intelligence recently to advise people on buying and selling wine estates. You have a vast knowledge of vineyards all around France and New Zealand. In your opinion which area of vineyards or appellation in the World currently offers the best return on your investment?

That is a very tricky question to answer. The top appellations in Bordeaux have offered spectacular returns over the last decade due to a combination of rising wine prices and large increases in land values. However, with land prices running at 1.5 to 2 million Euros per hectare for the top appellations the return on capital is not what it used to be. That said, buying into these appellations will never be a poor investment as they are only likely to become more sought after. In many other areas land prices tend to fluctuate according to grape/wine prices. Marlborough New Zealand is a good example of this. I published a piece on my website in December 2010 comparing land prices in Marlborough, New Zealand and Bordeaux. As grape prices in Marlborough have decreased by approx. 50% so land prices have followed suit, falling from a peak of approx. NZD 300 000 per hectare to current levels of approx. NZD 150 000 per hectare. As always, some of the best returns are to be made by people spotting great terroir that has yet to be exploited. They might be able to buy the land cheaply but they take the risk as to how good the wines will be and, more importantly, how the market will take to them.

4. You have a great knowledge of Bordeaux and you are often chatting with key players in production and Chateau owners. With the 2011 vintage having just finished alcoholic fermentation what are your views on the 2011 harvest and growing season?

The 2011 vintage in Bordeaux was more difficult than many producers are letting on. The early season drought was extreme and was followed by a relatively cool and damp ripening season together with changeable weather during the harvest. The top terroirs will produce decent wines but many people ended up picking earlier than they would have liked, particularly for the Merlot. The dry whites should be reasonably good but this will not be a classic vintage, probably closest to 2002 of the more recent vintages i.e. average quality with some surprises and the best producers standing out.
5. Bordeaux seems to have polarised in price recently between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. In your opinion where are the best qpr wines being produced in all the Bordeaux appellations?

Dry white AOC Bordeaux form the Entre-Deux-Mers in particular and Cotes de Bordeaux reds from the best terroir/producers.

6.Why did you decide to start Vineyard Intelligence ?

From my own experience as an overseas buyer with relatively little knowledge of running a vineyard and making wine there seemed to be a gap in the market for someone who could provide these buyers with local knowledge, technical expertise and useful contacts. While some of the local real estate agents that specialise in vineyards can provide some of the above they are trying to act as advisor to both the buyer and the seller and they are also restricted to offering those properties for which they have a mandate and are therefore not able to offer the buyer full market coverage. Having seen the success of businesses such as Property Vision in the UK prime real estate market I decided to try and adapt this "buying agent" model to the French vineyard market.

Thanks Alex.
So, if you want to take the plunge and invest in a vineyard, or if you have friends who want to live the dream I can thoroughly recommend that you contact Alex Hall at Vineyard Intelligence.

No comments: