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Bordeaux launches winemaker and estate matchmaking service

The Bordeaux government is launching a new initiative to match young winemakers looking to buy their first estate with properties owned by older winemakers approaching retirement.

‘Many have no succession plan’

The plans come from the French national land agency, SAFER, together with the Ministry of Agriculture in the Gironde: the idea is to help the estimated 1,000 vineyard owners who are over 55 and do not have a succession plan in place.

Many are forced into working longer, or are obliged to sell their estates to neighbours who then integrate the vines into their own chateaux, thus losing historic names.

Bernard Artigue, president of Ministry of Agriculture, and Francis Massé, president of SAFER Aquitaine, signed an agreement at wine trade fair Vinitech yesterday aimed at streamlining the process of vineyard purchases.

‘Both of us want to safeguard local vineyards,’ Artigue told Decanter.com. ‘We at the Ministry have partnerships with local oenology and viticultural colleges that are training the next generation of winemakers, so we are well placed to put them in contact with SAFER, who can then give them the route to vineyards which will suit their requirements.

‘The current crisis is not helping young people buy properties; ideally we would like 100 new entrants into vineyards each year; a fairly typical number until a few years ago.’

The process of mapping existing owners who are approaching retirement age has already begun in Entre deux Mers, and will be extended next year over the whole Bordeaux region.

‘We want to give vitality back to the sector,’ said Massé. ‘We are recording not only the location of the estates, but their terroir, size, styles of wine, key markets and sales strategies, so we can offer the best match possible when there is a young winemaker looking to buy.’

The scheme would also help to keep prices down, he said, and the Ministry of Agriculture would also advise on how prospective purchasers could get financial assistance.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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