06 Mai A handful of hectares at your finca : the rise of the hobby vineyard
Extract from the Financial Times Magazine.
Even during the pandemic, retirees and wine enthusiasts have been shopping for small vineyards in Spain, Italy and France.
Winemaking might be a precarious business, but that does not deter enthusiasts like Smith from embracing the age-old tradition. Even during the pandemic, buyers from around the world have been looking for “hobby” vineyards in France, Spain and Italy — these smaller vineyards typically stretch to a couple of hectares and will produce up to around 7,000 bottles a year.
Along with providing the opportunity for buyers to impress house guests with their “own” wine, this niche market also attracts those keen to produce their own organic or bespoke vintages. “Some of the successful entrepreneurial people that are now buying small vineyards innovate with techniques and grape varieties to produce some great-quality wines,”
The French rural land agency SAFER reports that there were 9,200 vineyard sales in 2019, with figures for last year not out yet but thought to be considerably lower. The price of a mature vineyard depends on the appellation (the wine region classification). Champagne is the most expensive area, averaging €1.108m per hectare in 2019, then Bourgogne-Beaujolais-Savoie-Jura at €189,200, although within parts of Bordeaux-Aquitaine prices go up to €2.3m per hectare (Pauillac).
According to SAFER, prices rose in most French areas between 2018 and 2019, with the price per hectare in Bordeaux-Aquitaine increasing 3.4 per cent to €105,100; and the prices in the Loire and Bourgogne areas both rising 4 per cent.
Appellation refers to the regulation of the area where a wine is made. French wine is classified by quality into three tiers: appellation d’origine protégée (AOP), which replaced AOC as the top level in 2012, vin de pays (IGP) and then vin de table (VDT). In Italy and Spain the tiers are similar though with the top two tiers DOCG and DOC or DO and DOC respectively, below which are two tiers of unregulated table wine. Despite Covid-19, Italy, France and Spain — which together account for 53 per cent of the world’s wine production in 2020 — saw increases in output over 2019 with rises of 3 per cent, 11 per cent and 21 per cent respectively, according to estimates from the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). In traditional European viticulture, 10,000 vines per ha are planted, with each vine yielding about 0.5kg of fruit, or approximately 0.35 litres of wine — so, one hectare produces c 3,500 bottles.