The viner things in life…
Wine estates rank amongst the world’s most desirable properties. Not only do you get a fabulously scenic home set amongst your own vines but also the cachet of producing your own vintage! We’ve picked three of Europe’s most coveted destinations for owning a ‘hobby vineyard’.
For wine aficionados the world over, few things in life will trigger the same level of fulfilment as relaxing with a glass of wine produced from the same gently rolling vines you gaze at each day from your terrace.
Sales of boutique wine estates, or ‘hobby vineyards’ as they are known in the trade, are driven by lifestyle. More than just a rural second home for escaping busy working lives, they offer the owners the chance to immerse themselves in their passion – wine! Unless you’re giving up the day job and thinking big, don’t expect to make a profit from your vineyard. Treat it as a creative indulgence, one that you’ll derive huge amounts of pleasure from, as well as impress guests when they come to stay. If you make enough of the stuff, a few bottles of your own vintage can be a nice thing to offer local bars and restaurants, or dish out as gifts.
Most countries in the world produce wine, but some are particularly famous for it and have regions that are blessed with a good choice of wine estates. We’ve picked four that might just be to your taste.
You’re never far from a vineyard in Italy, regarded as the birthplace of wine production, pioneered first by the Phoenicians before being ramped up by the Romans. Wine-growing is ingrained in Italian culture. Many families still maintain a small vineyard, producing enough of the famous nectar to keep their nearest and dearest suitably watered throughout the year.
A land of beautifully preserved hilltop towns, where palatial villas and restored farmhouses dot a landscape of undulating olive groves and vineyards, Tuscany is long-time favourite of discerning second homeowners. It also happens to be one of Italy’s most prestigious wine producers. The vineyards of the provinces of Chianti and Siena are its most famous, the former home to wines of the same name, the latter home to the notable Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino labels. Glorious rural properties with a vineyard are common in these areas, you just need to decide how big you want to go!
Nowhere on the planet is as closely linked with viticulture as the Bordeaux region. The world capital of wine and the benchmark for international fine wine-producers, it’s home to an incredible 57 appellations, the most famous being Haut-Médoc, Margaux, Pauillac, St-Julien, Pomerol, Graves, Sauternes and St-Emilion. A home in any of these wafts of serious wine credentials.
Located in the south-west of the country, Bordeaux is a city that gives its name to the surrounding 120,000 hectares of vines that carpet the fertile Gironde river estuary. Many of the vineyards there trace their ancestral roots back around 2,000 years to Roman times.
Small hobby vineyards in Bordeaux typically start from €2m-€4m, and there are options to purchase one in need of renovation. Wine isn’t the only highlight of this delicious region. The city of Bordeaux – an increasingly hip place to live – is not only a cultural and architectural delight but also an international gastronomic hub, complete with Michelin star restaurants. So a benefit of many vineyard homes in the region is being just a short drive from such a happening city-centre, as well as the pretty Atlantic coastline, home to resorts like oyster-famous Arcachon.
Douro Valley, Portugal
A world away from the pristine fairways, tourist spots and beaches of the Algarve, the northern part of Portugal is a land of rivers, lush valleys and ancient towns. A highlight is the Douro Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site that tracks the Douro river inland from its estuary at Porto. The name of Portugal’s second city, a cultural and architectural gem, gives away this region’s world-famous wine-producing heritage. The lush sides of the valley have been producing grapes for centuries with port production there dating back to the 1750s, a decade that saw the Douro Valley become the world’s first formally demarcated wine region. Besides port, Douro has always produced quality reds, the status of which today is growing internationally.
Douro has three winegrowing sub-regions The Baixo Corgo (Lower Corgo) is the furthest west, covering the area from Régua to a tributary of the Douro called the Corgo. Unlike more typical vineyards in Europe, vines there cling to terraces dug into the steep sides of the valley, overlooking the river as it winds its way into the Portuguese interior. Purchase an old ‘quinta’ or villa there and it’s likely to include a mature vineyard for you to dabble with your own vintages!