Sunday, 18 May 2014

Buying a vineyard?

This beautiful vineyard is valued at €10,000 per hectare.

Over the last few weeks I have been contemplating the question whether to buy a vineyard estate. I have been working in the wine trade/business for over 25 years in all aspects from restaurants, wine bars, retail, fine wine mail order, distribution, production and wine tourism. I have supplied wine to Buckingham Palace on numerous occasions as well as supplying wine to some of the wealthiest families in the World.
I have also sold large volumes of wine to UK supermarkets at remarkably value prices.
 Over the years I have lectured at the Royal Agricultural College in England (to MBA students) as well as serving as a Judge at the International Wine Challenge and being quoted in various wine publications such as Decanter, Wine Magazine, The Drinks Business and Harpers. I can not remember the amount of times I have explained fermentation, oak barrels, grape varieties, soils, climates, terroir, malo lactic fermentation, as well as botrytis, ice wine and secondary fermentation. I actually really love my job.
BUT it is one thing to talk about it, and it is another to actually do it!
So as I am now in my 44th year, when by all accounts I should be having a mid life crisis, I am now pondering the decision to invest in vineyards to create my own wines and establish a long term quality reputation. Something that my children (aged 10 and 12) will be proud of. Something that will last longer than a piece of paper, a quote or a tweet.
Last week I was offered 18 hectares of very good (ie well tended and well trained) vines in the south of France. The vines are planted at c 6-7000 vines per hectare. The average age of the vines is 25 years old. The grape varieties are Carignan (50%), Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre. The potential is to make various styles of wine:
1. A light Rose, that will sell quickly (and generate quick cashflow).
2. A spicy fruity red wine that has hints of wild thyme, wild rosemary and the garrigue.
3. A small batch of highly selected dark (mainly Syrah) oak aged wine that will age for 20-30 years.

The vineyards would be sold without any winemaking equipment (as the grapes have previously been sold to a Cave CoOperative). So there would need to be some serious investment in stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. But at least that is a clean sheet.

This could all be a complete dream, but it will be fun to see it all through. I will make clearer financial plans over the next few weeks to see whether this can be reality. Everyone should have dreams.
I will also try and grab hold of people who have done this in the last ten years(and who's wine I genuinely like!!)....people like Catherine Wallace at Domaine Combebelle, Katie Jones at Domaine Jones, John Bojanowski at Clos du Gravillas and James Kinglake at Domaine Begude.

This prime land in Saint Emilion is valued at €2 million per hectare.