Every experienced wine connoisseur is a wine critic, as they know what makes the cut as good wine and what doesn’t. Have you ever felt frustrated with a bottle of wine and thought, “I can make better wine on my own”?
Making wine for a living is a dream for many wine lovers, but not everyone can go through with it. After all, buying a vineyard and creating (and running!) a real business is not for everybody.
Winemaking is not for the weak-hearted. The entire process from acquiring a vineyard to making sure your business is successful is lengthy, complicated, and expensive. So unless you have a real passion for wine and are willing to commit to this time-consuming and costly venture, don’t get into it.
Most people don’t understand what it’s like to own a vineyard, so it’s crucial to figure that out first.
What Does It Mean to Own a Vineyard?
Vineyard as an investment is perfect for wine lovers, but they often don’t have a clear picture of how to own one. Owning a vineyard can mean any of the following things:
- You might be buying uncultivated land, where grapes have never been planted but the land has potential. This means that you have to grow a vineyard from scratch.
- Owning a vineyard can also mean buying and working the land where the grapes are already being grown. It might be easier to make a financial forecast of the land as the place already has a history of growing grapes.
- Acquiring any vineyard land without an accompanying winery means that now you, as a vigneron, will either have to find a seller for your grapes or acquire a winery.
- You can also find a vineyard with an existing winery in the same estate. Some people sell their commercially used vineyards plus winery as a set, which will be more expensive.
- The last kind of vineyard you can find are the luxury models. They often come with an old chateau or a villa, some vineyard land, and a winery. These are mostly for wealthy wine lovers who are looking for a vacation home to entertain or some remote beautiful area to retire to.
- So depending on what your vineyard goals are, you can end up buying any of the given options.
Acquiring a Vineyard
Once you have selected your possible objectives regarding buying your vineyard, you need to find the right one for you. Here is a guideline for buying a vineyard:
Choosing the Type of Wine & Grape
Even before you can look for vineyard real estate, you need to decide on what kind of wine you want to make and what kind of grapes you want to use for making it. Any wine can be light, medium, and full-bodied. There are five major types of wine:
Red wine is the most common and famous type of wine. The color of red wine can range from the pale ruby of Pinot Noir to the muddy brown of aged red wine. Red wines pair well with heavy meals, particularly meat. The more alcohol in the wine, the better it pairs with red meat.
Red wine is often made from either red, purple, black, or pink grapes. Most of the famous red wine grapes originated in France, but some other varieties come from Italy and Spain. A few rare types originated in Portugal, Argentina, and some other parts of the world.
Some red grapes of French origin that are commonly grown are merlot, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec, syrah, etc. A few popular Italian grapes are Sangiovese, Barbera, and Montepulciano. For Spain, it is Grenache, tempranillo, etc.
Each grape works better in certain climate and soil types, so you must find out which grape will suit your selected land or you have to find vineyard property according to the kind of grape you like.
Most people think that white wines are made of white and green grapes. But it can also be made from red or black grapes. Other than France, good white wine can be found in other parts of Europe like Switzerland, Germany, Greece, etc.
Argentinian white wine is famous for its native variety of grapes, called Torrontés which makes a dry white that pairs well with exotic savory food. Some good white wine grapes are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, riesling, etc.
Most white wine grapes are commonly grown in France, Italy, and some parts of Europe but also in California and a few countries in South America.
Rosé is a variety of wines made from red grapes. The juice of crushed grapes only stays in contact with the grape peels for around two to twenty-two hours. Then, the peel is removed and the juice continues to ferment until it turns into a rosé wine.
The color of rosé ranges from pale peach to a bright salmon red. The longer the juice is in contact with the peel, the darker the color gets. Some rosé wine grape varieties include Pinot Noir, Grenache, Shiraz, Sangiovese, etc.
Most rosé is produced by France, followed by Spain, the US, and Germany.
Dessert or Sweet Wine
Dessert or sweet wine is made when the fermentation is stopped before the entire grape juice sugar content turns into alcohol. The more sugar that remains, the sweeter it will taste. It has a more fruity flavor and may have higher alcohol content.
People usually have this with or after eating dessert. You can also make sweeter cocktails with dessert wines, so it is a coveted choice.
Some dessert wine grapes are Muscat, Riesling, and many of the late harvest grapes. Most dessert wines are made in cold climates, as it requires less fermentation than other wines. The most famous dessert wine is an ice wine called eiswein, which is produced in Germany.
Most people think that sparkling wine is limited to Champagne, but this is just one type. Other popular sparkling wines include Prosecco, Cava, crémant, sekt, sparkling rosé, etc.
Sparkling wine is made through two phases of fermentation. Initial fermentation turns the squashed grapes into wine. Then another phase of fermentation is induced using sugar and yeast, which puts more carbon dioxide into the wine, which is what causes the sparkling.
Germans and Russians make the most sparkling wines, with Germany being the largest consumer and producer of the wine. The third and fourth position for sparkling wine production is taken by Americans and French, respectively.
Some of the grapes used to make sparkling wines are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Muscat Gordo Blanco.
Selecting a Location
For a hobby vineyard, your choices can be flexible, as you can easily find a small property in the place you want. However, for commercial production, you have to consider many important aspects. Here are a few:
Everyone wants those scenic European vineyards you see in movies, but you may not find the perfect vineyard in your location of choice. Here are a few countries to consider:
France: When you think of making wine, the first country that comes to mind is France, the wine capital of the world. French wine is coveted, and being able to grow grapes and make wine in France is an alluring prospect.
The land prices can vary drastically, depending on where you are buying land and the AOC. AOC is the appellation that separates different wine regions and is a ranking based on quality.
AOC sets the standards for wines of different regions. The average price per hectare is $61,000, but the lowest price you can get is around $10,000 (Corbieres AOC) to millions of dollars.
If you are looking for hobby vineyards, the south of France is where you would want to buy land. You can also find vineyards with quaint chateaus where you can live, entertain, or stay while in France.
Italy: Italians are the largest producer of wine on earth. Italian wine has four tiers of wine classifications. The average price per hectare of vineyard land in Italy is around $34,000, which is a higher price than any other kind of land there.
Spain: Spain is one of the three largest producers of wine in the world. The warm climate results in the production of light and dry white wine and heavy red wines. They are famous for having their unique varieties of red and white grapes. They also have their special black grape.
Learning About Climate & Soil Conditions & Water Sources
Once you select a location and find the land, you need to do research and learn as much as you can about the local crop growing conditions.
Even though weather can be unpredictable, knowing about the climate can help you understand what to expect. The climate not only affects grape production but also gives different characteristics to the grape. The ideal weather for growing grapes is when the plants are getting an adequate amount of sunshine and rain.
You also need to learn about the soil conditions of the land as any plant care depends on good soil. Even though grapes can grow on diverse types of soils, the best soil for growing grapes is loamy soil.
Loamy soil is a grainy mixture of multiple kinds of soil materials including sand, clay, etc. This soil is grainy and provides good water drainage, which is crucial for growing grapes.
You need to be aware of the water sources to aid the growth of your grapevines. In most places, grapevines mainly depend on rainfall for moisture. But the amount of rainfall the vines are getting is not as important.
What is crucial is getting the right amount of rainfall at the right time. But if the unpredictable weather leads to not enough rainfall, irrigation is necessary.
Drip irrigation is the best way to water your plants, but the soil shouldn’t be constantly wet, which is why tropical weather is not ideal for growing grapes. Learn where the water will be coming from and the cost of getting that extra water to your vines.
Talk to an Expert
If you have no prior experience of growing grapes, you must consult with a seasoned grape farmer before selecting your land. Get advice from an expert to learn more about the region, the climate, grapes, soil, etc. The more information you have, the more prepared you will be for growing the grapes.
It is better to talk to a native expert to understand the prospects and the possibilities of growing grapes in that area. They can help you understand whether the vineyard land you are hoping to buy is worth spending your money on.
Visit the Vineyard
Before deciding on buying the vineyard property you selected, you must visit the land. If possible, take your wine real estate advisor with you so that they can help you determine whether the property is worth buying.
Walk around the entire property and notice everything. Remember to ask questions to the seller. Ask about the soil and the property’s growth capacity. Also, learn about surrounding land for possible expansions.
If it is a vineyard that has been used for growing grapes in the past, learn about the past buyers of grapes. If the property comes with a winery, ask about past wine production and old buyers of wine, as you might be able to sell to them once you start making your wine. After visiting the vineyard, talk to your advisor and finalize your choice.
Understanding the Risks
Running a vineyard successfully is not easy. It takes a lot of research, hard work, planning, capital, etc. Good entrepreneurship is also a factor here.
Growing grapes alone will not be profitable, especially on a small scale. The cost of growing them and making the wine can take a lot of money, so know what you are getting yourself into before you decide to invest in a vineyard.
Running a hobby vineyard is different from running a commercial one. It is crucial to know what you want, whether you want to run a business or simply want a vacation property to entertain friends and family.
Breaking into a luxury item market can be difficult, as most people tend to associate luxury with established brands. So if you want to make money out of your investment, do a lot of research and get advice from those who have experience. Only invest if you are certain that you can handle the vineyard.
Managing the Finances
Once you have selected a property, talk to your bank about your finances. Your banker can advise you and give you plenty of information on how to handle property, especially one brought overseas.
If you provide all the information, your banker can help you understand whether you can afford the land. If buying the property takes away most of your finances, you will not be able to run it.
If you plan on taking a loan or if you need to arrange more finances for your business, your banker can help you figure that out as well. Once your finances have matched up with your property, you can buy the property.
However, make sure you know all the hidden fees such as taxes, license fees, etc. You will need to hire a lawyer to manage the legal sides of doing business in France, Italy, or any other country that is not your homeland.
Business Forecast: Are Vineyards Worth It?
- Growing grapes is expensive, so making a profit from just that can be quite difficult. If you are only selling grapes, you have to grow them in bulk to make a profit. This means you will need a larger piece of land.
- If you get a winery and start making your own wine, you have a better chance of starting with lower capital. Acquiring some land and letting the grape production dictate your direction is the best way to go.
- Your financial advisor (possibly from your bank) can help you figure out the cost of running the business. If you get a forecast before you buy the property, you will know whether buying the vineyard will be profitable for you, given your finances.
- Accessibility will always be a factor, so decide whether you want to permanently move to another country or whether it will be feasible for you to travel back and forth.
- If you are not there to constantly manage your business, you will need to find an adept manager who will be able to maintain and run the business from the country you have bought the real estate from.
- You must consider the language barrier as well. So either learns the language or have a good translator at hand while dealing with foreign nationals.
- Finally, is it worth it? Yes, if you are passionate about making wine and can afford it, it will be worth your time and money. You have to stick to it for a while to make a profit and to understand the ins and outs of the business.
- Being successful depends on knowledge, experience, and business savviness. This is the kind of business that requires true love for the product itself to become a success. So the question is, “Will you love the wine you are making and think it is worth buying?” If the answer is yes, then don’t shy away from this passion project.
- Do not get discouraged by the unpredictability of the weather affecting your agriculturally dependent business. You will have good seasons and bad seasons, so be prepared to take that hit.
- If you love the business and are prepared for the risks, it will be worth buying that vineyard.
Now that you know how to finance, acquire, and handle a vineyard, ask yourself whether you feel passionate about the grape and wine business. If you do and can afford the expenses, you can find success with your vineyard investment.