Grape investments: how to adopt a vineyard
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Owning a vineyard might sound romantic, but the reality is incredibly hard work. Even if you’re not running it day-to-day, appointing the right team to do it for you can be time-consuming and difficult. Get it wrong and your rosé-tinted daydream – as well as your investment – can quickly turn sour.
The Vineyard & Terroir Fund offers a new model for wine lovers who’d like a piece of the action without getting their hands dirty. The regulated fund, launched by elite vintner Wine Source, is setting out to build a €50m portfolio of vineyards in prime locations around the world – Burgundy, Piedmont, Champagne, Napa, northern Rhône – which will be leased back to up-and-coming winemakers in the company’s network.
The price of entry is high: the minimum investment is €200,000 for individuals and €500,000 for corporations. And there’s a lock-in of five years. But with competition for the top spots on both sides of the Atlantic at an all-time high – fuelled in part by interest from China and Silicon Valley – investors can expect an annual return of eight to 12 per cent, according to co-portfolio manager Simon Lurton: “Take Burgundy. In 2011, the average price of a hectare of premier cru red terroir in Burgundy was €475,000. In 2018 it was €2.5m. That’s an appellation where there’s strong potential and the price of the land has increased for more than a decade. That’s the kind of opportunity we are looking for.”
The benefits flow both ways – the winemaker gets a leg-up, and the investor knows their investment should be in safe hands, says Lurton. “You are not just investing in land but also in people who know what they’re doing.” After five years, the winemaker is given the option to buy the plot.
Thanks to the Wine Source portfolio, the fund already has access to a prestigious network of growers. Among the first winemakers to sign is Philippe Pacalet, a cult name in Burgundy as the nephew of Beaujolais legend Marcel Lapierre and former winemaker at Domaine Prieuré-Roch.
Being an investor doesn’t grant an access-all‑areas pass, says Lurton. But a more “immersive” experience is certainly possible for those who ask nicely: “Wine tastings over dinner or lunch, vineyard visits with the winemaker, maybe even a special cuvée or a personalised back label; these are all things we have discussed. But above all else, the relationships with the winemakers remain key.”
Those after more of an impulse buy might consider Cuvée Privée – a new subscription service that allows wine lovers to “adopt” vines from a clutch of well-regarded estates around France, selected by Le Bristol head sommelier Bernard Neveu.
Launched by three Frenchwomen who bonded over wine while at university (including one who hails from a champagne family herself), Cuvée Privée has so far partnered with estates including Saint-Emilion’s Château de la Cour, Chablis’s Domaine d’Henri and the Premier Cru Classé Château Suduiraut in Sauternes.
Subscription ranges from £140 to £880 a year – a fee that includes six vines, monthly vineyard updates, six personalised bottles of wine from the chosen plot, and an invitation to visit the estate and try your hand at a harvest. “Our members are wine lovers, but not experts,” says co-founder Aurélie Berthon. “This allows them to develop their knowledge, meet the winemaker, and discover what hides behind the bottle.”
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