Bordeaux: homes as gorgeous as the wine

If wine is your passion, buy a home in Bordeaux and produce your own
Gironde chateau
£2.3 million: this immaculate Gironde château, close to Bordeaux city, comes with about 20 acres of vines and a separate two-bedroom cottage. Through Knight Frank (knightfrank.com)
Bordeaux is home to some of the most iconic names in wine: Pomerol, St Emilion and Margaux trip smoothly off the tongue, while Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes soak up the sun in this south-west corner of France.

Homes there can be gorgeous, too: soft, creamy limestone châteaux and manor houses nestle in the gentle Aquitaine countryside once reigned over by the English crown for more than three centuries.

Asian and South African investors have been busily buying up prime vineyards, paying up to £1 million an acre. But, if you are looking for a hobby vineyard, £6,000 an acre will give you a start.

Owning a vineyard


The romance of owning a vineyard has intoxicated many house hunters, says Alexander Hall. He runs Vineyard Intelligence, a company that sources vineyards and advises would-be wine producers. But even hobby purchasers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls.

"There are 7,500 producers in Bordeaux with an average 25 acres each, so it's a fragmented market," says Hall. "Producing wine involves farming, chemistry, soil knowledge and tasting - but most of all it involves selling your wine. As a small producer it is very hard to make money."

Ivy-covered maison de maître
£1.2 million: a six-bedroom ivy-covered maison de maître, situated between Bordeaux and Bergerac with about 50 acres of vines (knightfrank.com)
Hall, 43, left the City in 2004 to work on vineyards in New Zealand and across France, driving tractors and getting his hands dirty. He gained a thorough knowledge of the industry but eventually decided against buying his own vineyard.

"I had no financial safety net," he says. "It does help if you have money in the bank or a partner with a reliable income, especially in the early years as you get established. Many people buy with a passion but few really look at the balance sheet."

Instead he bought an old stone house 35 minutes from Bordeaux in pretty Entre-deux-Mers where he lives with his wife Emma and two young sons.

As well as running Vineyard Intelligence he lectures on wine at Bordeaux's impressive Ecole du Vin and organises bespoke wine tours. For all his caution he is keen not to puncture the romantic element of owning a vineyard. "There is something wonderful about putting your own wine on the table," he says. "And Bordeaux is a fantastic place to do it."

Bordeaux city centre


The wine trade made Bordeaux one of France's wealthiest cities in the 18th century, but it took Alain Juppé, France's new foreign minister and long-term Mayor of Bordeaux, to remind modern tourists of its appeal. Dingy buildings have been cleaned, there's an impressive modern tram system and the Quais, along the Garonne river, are now home to cool restaurants and bars.

The best residential areas are the Triangle d'Or beside the Opera and the upmarket shopping street Cours de l'Intendance and the Jardins Botanique where apartments start from £650,000. Younger, chic residents hang out in Chartrons where the old wine warehouses are being revitalised. Savills has a renovated two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a 19th-century building in Rue des Remperts for £310,000, currently earning more than £20,000 as a short let.

Stone house
£560,950: in Côtes de Castillion, close to St Emilion and 50 minutes from Bordeaux airport, a three-bedroom stone house with about 15 acres of vines producing 30,000 bottles each year (maxwellstorriebaynes.com)

Contacts


* Vineyard Intelligence: vineyardintelligence.com
* Knight Frank: knightfrank.com
* Maxwell Storrie Baynes: maxwellstorriebaynes.com
* Savills: savills.co.uk; 020 7016 3740

Holidays in wine country


Bordeaux Tourist Office organises regular guided tours to châteaux across the region's six appellations and several companies arrange personalised tours: try Bespoke Bordeaux, Insider Tasting and Arblaster & Clarke.

In Bordeaux City the CIVB, the association of Bordeaux wine producers, runs the modern Ecole du Vin with courses in English ranging from two-hour "Introduction to Bordeaux" tastings to more thorough two-day workshops.

In the Medoc, visitors can cycle between four châteaux learning all aspects of producing wine, while in the Sauternes, tasting evenings show visitors how to combine local food with their velvety sweet wines.

* L'Ecole du Vin: bordeaux.com; +33 (0)5 5600 2285
* Bespoke Bordeaux: bespokebordeaux.com

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