A rising number of so-called ‘hobby vineyards’ have been coming onto the French wine property market, targeting wealthy enthusiasts looking for a lifestyle change, according to the Vineyards-Bordeaux agency.
While the wine lover’s dream of owning a vineyard is hardly new, more entrepreneurs are renovating properties with a view to selling them for up to several million euros to wealthy collectors.
‘Hobby vineyards have always been led from the demand side, but now it’s from the supply side,’ said Michael Baynes, executive partner and co-manager of Vineyards-Bordeaux, which is affiliated to the real estate division of Christie’s.
‘Entrepreneurs are asking us “is there a market for this?”, and we are saying, “yes, there is”.’
He added, ‘It could change a whole portion of the vineyard industry.’
A hobby vineyard estate in the Bordeaux area would typically start at around three hectares of vines, according to Vineyards-Bordeaux.
Prospective buyers are passionate about fine wine and they care about finding parcels of quality terroir, particularly in less prestigious appellations, but they are ‘less sensitive to profitability’, Baynes said.
In general, it’s ‘people who have a lot of money who want to make a super little wine for their own tastes’.
Some buyers are also interested in distributing a proportion of their wines to select venues. Others might sign a deal with a local cooperative to outsource the winemaking.
What does a hobby vineyard cost?
One seven-hectare (ha) ‘hobby vineyard’ property currently listed by Vineyards-Bordeaux is priced at just under €1.38m, including 3.76(ha) of AOC Graves vines planted to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
A larger estate with a bigger château building, in AOC Bergerac, is listed at around €3.2m, promising the lifestyle but ‘with limited responsibilities for operation and wine distribution’.
Baynes said that around €1.5m would generally buy an estate that needed some renovation work, to varying degrees. In the €2m to €3m range, and upwards, ‘somebody will have done it for you’.
However, vineyard prices vary enormously in France, and in Bordeaux specifically.
A single hectare of vines in Pauillac or Pomerol cost €2.3m and €1.9m on average respectively in 2019, according to French land agency Safer.
In contrast, vineyards in Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux cost €16,000 per hectare (ha), down 11% versus 2018, although the price could be up to €22,000/ha – highlighting that buyers would generally be expected to pay more for prized terroir.
On a domestic level, rising vineyard prices in some of France’s most prestigious appellations have been a recurring topic of debate, amid concern about how small-scale family producers can manage inheritance tax and other costs related to succession.