Of the many pleasures owning your own vineyard offers, perhaps the simplest is pouring a glass of wine from grapes you’ve grown yourself.
A wine property is an investment, an aspiration and a creative process.
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“Very often, buyers of wine properties have already had successful careers in other fields of business and relish the challenge of applying their professional skills at the wine-making process,” says Alexander Kraft, CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty France & Monaco. “They usually appreciate good wine and food, want a change of lifestyle but do not want to retire yet. Wine-making gives them the opportunity to live their passion whilst tackling a new, exciting challenge.”
The wine country culture is about good life pursuits, often within a classic setting of rolling hills and sweeping vistas amid bucolic towns. Wine-producing regions span the globe, even in places like Zimbabwe, Armenia and Bolivia. Terroir–the notion that the character and qualities of a wine are primarily shaped by the area’s distinct soil and climate–is of utmost importance, even above the choice of grapes and winemaking practices. As a result, the viticultural area largely determines the quality of a wine and, by extension, the price of a wine estate.
The top ten wine-producing countries account for some 85 percent of worldwide production. France tops the list.
Several aspects make the wine country lifestyle in France unique, beyond the all-important terroir. Most French wine properties date back one or even several centuries and often have an impressive historic mansion or castle at the heart of the estate, says Kraft. What’s more, wine is an integral part of French culture. “Everyone drinks it as a matter of course, from teenagers to nonagenarians. Thus, being the owner of a wine estate is an extremely respected, even envied, profession,” he says.
Bordeaux is the largest wine-growing area in France, producing arguably the most prestigious reds in the world. “Bordeaux is extremely civilized with a splendid historical city,” says Olivier Colas of Bordeaux Sotheby’s International Realty. It is also “well-connected to the world” via rail. Colas says the wine business is one in which “expertise causes real enjoyment.” Owning your own vineyard, producing wine that people know and sharing it is a “unique point of pride.”
There are two types of wine properties: a vineyard where the grapes are grown and a winery where harvested grapes are processed, aged, bottled and sold. Private homes on these properties can range from classic to cutting-edge. Modern glass-walled showplaces with resort-like amenities are showing up even in some of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world.
Of the New World wine regions, those located outside of the traditional European wine-growing areas, Argentina is the leader and the world’s fifth largest wine producer. The country’s most important wine region is in the Mendoza Province, about 600 miles southwest of Buenos Aries, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Some of the highest vineyards in the world are here. The region is marked by 300 days of sunshine and cool nights. Rosario Lix Klett of Adriana Massa Sotheby’s International Realty in Buenos Aires says that golf, polo and skiing are part of the Argentinean wine country lifestyle, adding, “and we can never forget food.” Here in the capital of Malbec Country international oenophiles are making their way and investing their money in Argentina’s liquid assets. “Living in a wine region or owning a property in one connects you with being part of a noble work,” says Klett. “An investment in a vineyard is not just the goal but the journey.”
New Zealand is another New World wine producer. Its grapes benefit from a maritime climate with sunny days and cool evening sea breezes. “Most of the vineyards in the various regions in New Zealand are close to provincial towns and cities, absolutely a part of the landscape we travel in and around on our daily paths, work or social,” says Fraser Holland of New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty. “This makes for a more balanced lifestyle for the resident owner than living in a remote rural farming area.” Holland calls the New Zealand wine community a close knit one with “a very strong sense of camaraderie amongst the vineyard owners and the wineries.” Like many marquee wine regions, New Zealand’s draws professionals looking for a lifestyle change as well as retirees with financial resources.
In addition to potential capital rewards, vineyard and winery owners enjoy the “strong sense of independence” that comes from a running a business, Holland says. Still it’s a lifestyle that demands knowledge and patience. “While it is almost a romantic vocation for the uninitiated, it is hard work coupled with quality fruit that will win through,” he says. “You have to be in love with wine. It will then hopefully become a long-term affair that ends in a happy marriage.”
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