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Buying a Vineyard - Make it Pay

 

Next Steps

We are sure you'll be trawling the internet for a very long time. The search for a vineyard is a slow process. Most of the information you'll get back from agents will be very basic. Every time you decide to view, you'll be eating up money on flights and accommodation. Do remember to contact notaries and lawyers in the region you would like to buy as often they have contacts with families who would like to sell without going on the open market.

 

This is it !

Then comes the day when you have found the vinyeard of your dreams. Don't lose your head. Go through things methodically. Remember, it is the vines which are the most important thing.

When viewing vineyards during summer, the vines are very dense and it's difficult to see how much of the vine is dead and not been replaced. Walk the rows carefully and examine the wood and leaf quality. Any disease can often be spotted for round dead patches. Count the grape clusters. Look at the state of the wires and poles holding up the vines and remember to check drainage systems.

It is wise to take some soil samples from various spots in the vineyard to later get an analysis of nutrients and chemicals.

One of the things which is important with younger vines is to get papers stating the clone of the grape variety and which root it was grafted to.

From all this information you should be able to assess how you can improve the quality of the wines being currently produced or if not being produced yet, to assess the potential of future wines.

 

Making it pay

At the very least you should do all your sums and ensure that it really is possible to make the amount of money that you need in order to live. Then take that figure and take off 30% - can you still live on that? Being an agricultural activity it is subject to weather conditions plus the vagueries of the market. This produces a degree of uncertainty.

Even as a hobby you'll need at least a hectare to break even. If you have a hectare of vines it is a full-time job. If you have more than two hectares, you need to employ people. It's competitive these days.

Many who would like to own a vineyard are caught by the romantic notion and do not give enough financial consideration to the whole project. If you want to make a living from a vinyeard be sure the vineyard you are thinking of buying can do that and that you have the skills to do it as well.

If you need help, you may be able to hire a traditional farmer who is willing to diversity. Even so, you should make sure you have an exit strategy in place. One bad year for weather can wipe you out, particularly in the early stages. In pure property investment terms, owning a vineyard is a challenge. Future purchasers may well want the land for something else and to them it is just a house with a field. Maintaining the land as a vineyard could massively reduce your future market when you come to sell.

 

Buy Established or Start from Scratch

Ask yourself whether you wanted to buy a working vineyard or if you prefer to start from scratch. There are pros and cons to both.

Working or Established Vineyards
Pros
- the hard work of establishing the vinyeard is already done
- access to audited accounts to help you establish financial viability (if you can't get these, then alarm bells should be sounding!)
- the vineyard should have an established marketplace
Cons
- whatever decision the current owners have made you are stuck with them in the short term
- it will be very difficult to modify the physical attributes of the site


Starting from Scratch
Pros
- all the choices are yours, from varieties of vine to the system to be used
- you can find the perfect site
Cons
- whilst you will have all the options, you might get some of the choices more wrong than the owner did of an existing vineyard
- you'll have a long wait before you get any return, maybe five to seven years to reach full production