Vineyard buyouts reached a 25-year high in France in 2017, according to the latest figures from France's land agency. Here is what has been happening to prices in Bordeaux...
It’s that time of year when you get to think, if I’d been a hedge fund shorting the pound on the night of the EU referendum, what would I be spending my money on?
Yes, the French national land agency SAFER has released its roundup of vineyard prices. And it’s been a busy year.
The number of vineyard transactions in 2017 was the highest for 25 years across France, with the Loire and Burgundy seeing the biggest rises in numbers of purchase and Champagne representing the biggest in value (55% of the total at more than €38 million).
The overall value of transactions stood at €1.25billion, up 59.9% from 2016, with just over 9,600 individual transactions for 16,900ha of land.
The huge rise was because of 10 particularly large transactions that represented 31% of overall value. But even without these, the trend is still upwards.
Looking specifically at Bordeaux, the value of the sales represents the second highest in the country at €12.7million (still way behind Champagne).
Just under 3% of the entire Bordeaux vineyard changed hands in 2017, so around 3,000ha.
The number of transactions was up from 708 sales in 2016 to 723 in 2017, with the value of those sales up from €249million to €277million (although as Alex Hall of Vineyard Intelligence points out, ‘SAFER figures are far from perfect. Values of sales of Troplong Mondot, Haut-Batailley, Berliquet, Fonroque, Clos La Madeleine, Bellefont Belcier and Franc Mayne certainly add up to more than €277million’).
Price-wise, you’re still looking at the established appellations taking the lion’s share of the money.
AOC Bordeaux and AOC Côtes de Bordeaux remain unchanged at €16,000/ha on average, with SAFER specifically noting that ‘the susceptibility to frost has become a key criteria for purchasers’.
SAFER also notes that, as in previous years, local buyers are interested mainly in buying vines, while those from outside of the region want to buy vineyards that come with ‘characterful buildings’, otherwise translated as attractive châteaux.
Around 16 purchases by Chinese buyers took place in 2017, a number which is perhaps surprising considering moves by the Chinese government to clamp down on moving money overseas announced in late 2016.
We will have to wait and see to discover what effect the freezing of assets of the Haichang Group in the form of 10 (out of their total of 20) Bordeaux châteaux will have going forward.
Across all of France, by the way, British buyers represent 41% of international purchases of agricultural land, although the French press release accompanying these figures noted that the numbers have gone down slightly since the Brexit vote.
Anyway, back in Bordeaux, as you head into the Côtes, you find Bourg stands at an average of €22,000/ha compared to €18,000/ha for Cadillac and Blaye.
Pessac-Léognan is still at a healthy €450,000/ha average (with some sales up at €600,000/ha) compared to its southern sister Graves, which remains at €30,000/ha (and again SAFER indicates that frost risk has played a part in this price difference).
SAFER also points out that Sauternes is showing a few encouraging signs of investment, even though sales remain ‘complicated’ and price per hectare is still low (down a further 14% at €30,000/ha). I would imagine the opening of the Lafaurie-Peyraguey Lalique hotel and the new restaurant at Guiraud could make things different next year.
The Médoc is one of the few areas to have seen price rises – now €55,000/ha for AOC Médoc on average, up 10% from €50,000 last year, while still at €80,000/ha for AOC Haut-Médoc.
Margaux and St-Julien remain at an average of €1.2 million/ha, while Pauillac remains at €2 million/ha on average – although compare this to a grand cru site in the Cote d’Or, which costs €6 million/ha on average, up from €5.5 million/ha in 2016.
St-Estèphe is up 18% at €450,000/ha. Hall said that this was ‘largely driven by a lack of opportunities in the neighbouring communal appellations of Pauillac and St-Julien’.
There is a big range of prices in St-Estèphe, going from €1 million/ha for the best gravel spots to €350,000/ha for the coolest clay soils.
Over on the Right Bank, as we have all witnessed, it is St-Emilion that caught fire in 2017.
The prices given by SAFER show how little the average price means, because the range is from €200,000/ha at the lower end to €2.6 million at the highest. Even that is clearly not taking into account the sale of Troplong Mondot in 2017, where we now believe the price was closer to €6 million/ha.
The SAFER figures show the St-Emilion average rising by just an extra €20,000/ha, but good luck finding a piece of land to buy outside of the sandy plain for anything lower than half-a-million euros today.
Pomerol also showed a 15% rise, from €1.3 million/ha on average to €1.5 million, with the range going from €900,000 to €4.4 million/ha.
All of which suggests you might want to look at Montagne St-Emilion at €110,000/ha or Lalande de Pomerol at €210,000/ha.
That said, local buyers apparently think they will get a better return on investment in Puisseguin or Lussac.
Fronsac was the only appellation other than Sauternes to show a drop in prices, down by 14% in 2017 to €30,000 from €35,000/ha in 2016.
However, Canon remains at €110,000/ha, which makes very little sense when you look at the terroir of certain parts of Fronsac, and might again suggest that there are opportunities to be had. See you at the estate agents.
If you want to fall down this particular rabbit hole, this is the Safer website to go to.
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