Buying a wine estate or vineyard in the south of France has understandable appeal, not least the promise of limitless sunshine and call of the Mediterranean coast.
Making wine is not an endeavour to be undertaken lightly, but where do most deals take place, and what sort of prices should you expect if it’s something you’re considering?
It is a huge area; there are 200,000 to 220,000 hectares of vines in Languedoc-Roussillon alone, plus 60,000ha in the Rhône Valley and nearly 27,000ha in Provence, according to Aurélia Mistral-Bernard, based at the Montpellier office of estate agency network Vinea Transaction.
Prices vary considerably, from €10,000 per hectare of vines on average in the Côtes du Roussillon close to the Spanish border to more than €1m per hectare in the far north of the Rhône Valley, up in Côte-Rôtie, show the latest figures from French land agency Safer.
As Adam Dakin, director of Montpellier-based estate agency Wine Objectives, puts it, ’10 hectares in Corbières [Languedoc] will cost around €100,000, in Pic-St-Loup [near Montpellier] it could be €700,000 and in Châteauneuf-du-Pape you could pay €500,000 per hectare, so it would be €5m.’
In the Rhône, Mistral-Bernard said that the northern Rhône appellations are almost ‘completely closed’ to non-trade buyers, but that ‘Ventoux, Luberon and generic Côtes du Rhône are very accessible [at] around €20,000 per hectare.’
Which vineyard areas have seen a lot of activity?
Dakin said that wine lovers’ thirst for rosé wines means that ‘Provence has been absolutely booming’ in terms of vineyard interest.
Land towards the coast tends to be more expensive, but you can still pick up vineyards for around €70,000 per hectare in the upper parts of the Var, he said.
Both Dakin and Mistral-Bernard highlighted healthy demand in some of the newer, up-and-coming appellations in Languedoc, now part of the ‘Occitanie’ administrative region.
These include areas like La Clape near to Narbonne, Terrasses du Larzac near to Aniane further north and Pic-St-Loup, located around a mountain of the same name just outside of Montpellier.
‘Land values have been moving upwards,’ said Dakin.
Mistral-Bernard also said that organic vineyard deals were on the rise in general across the south, and that this trend has mainly developed in the last five to six years.
She added that ‘there are many vineyards for sale in Corbières and Minervois because a lot of winegrowers are retiring’.
However, ‘the prices are very attractive but the profitability in certain areas is low,’ she said, citing lack of irrigation options and future concerns about climate change, too.
Thinking about a strategy
When it comes to buying entire estates, including a residence, prices can range from a few hundred thousand euros to several million euros.
Mistral-Bernard highlighted a property with 20ha of vineyards and a manor house in a well-known appellation of Languedoc that is currently listed for around €500,000, but she said ‘there is a lot of investment to do’.
Another property with appellation-level vines in Languedoc is listed at €1.5m. ‘There’s work to do, but it’s profitable now,’ she said.
Others can cost significantly more, and non-trade buyers may face competition from wine companies, which have themselves have been increasingly active in up-and-coming appellations.
A ‘bastide’ complex with a swimming pool, 38ha of vines and a main château building around 15 minutes drive from Montpellier was listed by Vinea Transaction at €6.2m, or €5.9m excluding fees.
Both Dakin and Mistral-Bernard highlighted the need for buyers to consider their priorities, from the proximity of an international airport to their intentions around their chosen property.
‘It depends on what you expect from the project,’ said Dakin. Some buyers just need the vineyard to ‘wash its face’ financially while others might wish to make more of a commercial profit.
When it comes to picking areas, ‘if you buy in Hermitage or Châteauneuf-du-Pape then you’re almost guaranteeing the possibility of selling the wine,’ he said.
But, he added that those looking for a return on their investment could be better off looking at lesser-known appellations that are on the rise.