Brad and Angelina have done it, as have fellow A-list stars Sting, Donald Trump and the Beckhams. They have all invested in a vineyard.
Owning a vineyard has been the basis for many a midlife dream, swapping the day job to live among the grapes, blending own-label wine to serve to impressed friends over long, sunsoaked lunches. The reality isn’t quite like that, says Gavin Quinney.
In 1999, he left Wandsworth with his wife, Angela, and their children for the market town of Créon near Bordeaux, buying for £1.7 million the 200-acre Château Bauduc estate (bauduc.com; 0800 316 3676) and producing an annual 200,000 bottles of red, white and rosé wines.
“I sometimes say that if you dream of buying a vineyard, then go and lie in a darkened room until the thought goes away,” says Gavin, 55. “Wine making is a tough game and making a profit is hard.
“A vineyard needs lots of labour, much of it skilled, and then there is the unpredictable weather. We lost two crops in five years to hailstones.”
The couple have made a great success of Bauduc, producing house wines for celebrity chefs Rick Stein and Gordon Ramsay, and winning praise from wine expert Jancis Robinson. Yet there is little time to sit around and quaff.
Along with producing and selling their wine, the Quinneys have four children aged 12 to 20, a four-bedroom farmhouse that they let, and a lovely 19th-century château to maintain.
“You have to believe that cash is not the only currency in life,” says Gavin, a former director of an IT company. “It’s funny how being a wine grower is so hugely respected, yet it’s one of the daftest things you can do.”
Owning a vineyard is not for the fainthearted, but you can have a vineyard view, without the investment or the hassle. Here are some options:
France: La Durantie
France produces more wine — and sells more wine abroad — than any other country, according to the International Organisation of Wine and Vine. La Durantie in the Tarn in south-west France, is a development of 57 new one- to five-bedroom detached homes and two- and three bedroom apartments based around
Château Belle Époque, with extensive views over the vines. The resort is within an hour of Toulouse airport and will have indoor and outdoor pools, a gym and spa.
Prices at La Durantie start from £246,000 through Abercrombie & Kent (akinternationalestates.com) with an optional nine-year leaseback scheme where buyers who rent their home for an annual minimum of nine weeks get a return of at least 2.6 per cent.
Tuscany, and especially scenic Chianti, produces Italy’s most-loved wines. The noble Mazzei family have been producing wine at the stunning vineyard Castello di Fonterutoli (fonterutoli.com) for 600 years and the now-24th generation is keen to respect traditions. That hasn’t stopped them building a thoroughly modern winery, named as the most impressive in Chianti by Decanter magazine.
Buy your own Chianti vineyard property and expect to pay at least £1.9 million for just a few acres, says Jelena Cvjetkovic of Savills (savills.com). Yet opt for a vineyard view from an apartment in a wine-producing hamlet and prices start from £225,000, with detached houses from £590,000.
Spain: A Place to Stay
There are 33 wineries on the Tempranillo- soaked wine route of Ribera del Duero in north-east Spain but only one, Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine, comes with a five-star hotel, Michelin-star restaurant and world-class spa.
Two hours north of Madrid, the estate boasts one of the most innovative and technologically advanced wineries in Europe. It produces 500,000 bottles a year with the Selección Especial red rated in the world’s top 50 by Wine Spectator.
Guests can participate in the harvest and learn about wines in the winery. Grapes were first cultivated at LeDomaine by monks in the 12th century. The monks are long gone, but their fabulous Romanesque meets- Baroque abbey has fallen into the caring hands of a Swiss company, which has lavished love and money on it.
After seven years’ renovation it is now a tranquil 30-room hotel, decorated with exquisite Persian rugs, wooden chests from Argentina and 17th-century Spanish desks. Guests come for a reboot in the spa, to sample tapas in the Vinoteca or to sit among the lavender in the monastic cloisters - but it is the vines that define LeDomaine.
Rooms at LeDomaine start from £270. For further information, visit ledomaine.es, call+34 98 368 0368 or email firstname.lastname@example.org