Source: Financial Times
By: John Stimpfig
“You can crush at my pad” Fully serviced vineyard schemes allow oenophiles to produce their own wine – and be as hands-on or hands-off as they choose. Some vintages are even scoring high Parker points.
“My boat sank, so I bought a vineyard” might sound like an improbably tall tale told at the end of a wine-addled dinner party. But in the case of Michelle Paris, it’s the truth. It all began in 2007 when the Toronto-based investment dealer discovered that her planned Antarctic trip had been cancelled after the ship she was due to go on unfortunately sank. “So, with a few weeks’ vacation suddenly unaccounted for, I found myself trekking in Patagonia before spending some time in Argentina’s wine capital, Mendoza.”
As an avid wine collector, she was particularly keen to take a couple of winery tours to the highly acclaimed Uco Valley, set in the foothills of the Andes. “The epic beauty of the place just blew me away,” recalls Paris. But the real turning point was two days later, when she fell into conversation with an Australian couple who were considering the idea of buying a vineyard. “Suddenly, the more we talked about it, the more attractive and economically feasible it became. Up to that moment, it hadn’t even been on the radar. And now I was thinking – why not?”
But hang on a minute – even in happier financial times, it was always the case that making wine was almost as draining financially as purchasing a Premier League football club. Hence the old wine trade adage: “How do you make a small fortune in the wine trade? You start with a large one.”
Having bought a vineyard in South Africa, the late opera singer Deon van der Walt subsequently admitted he probably wouldn’t have done so had he known what the final bill was going to look like. Even Sir Peter Michael was surprised by the mounting costs of his California winery. It set him back $1 million a year for the first two decades – and that was on top of the first $1 million to purchase the vineyards. So how on earth was Paris planning to do it for less than $200,000?
The answer was, with remarkable ease – thanks to one of a growing number of managed vineyard ownership schemes currently being offered by various specialist international developers. And the beauty of these relatively new “vanity vineyards” projects doesn’t just relate to the cost. It also means that any novice, wannabe vintner can do it with zero knowledge and experience. Just as importantly, they can do it remotely, without having to sacrifice huge swathes of time – not to mention blood, sweat and tears. So how do these schemes work?
“Essentially, what we do is cut out all the hassle and let people get on with the more rewarding aspects of crafting great wine,” says Vines of Mendoza’s CEO, Michael Evans. “The most important thing is that all our Private Vineyard Estates are sold on a proprietary, turnkey basis, with owners determining their respective levels of input and involvement.” As a result, owners get to produce their very own wine with the guidance, help and expertise of a dedicated, professional team of viticulturalists, agronomists and oenologists. In the case of Vines of Mendoza, that expertise comes from none other than Santiago Achaval, Argentina’s most acclaimed and award-winning winemaker.
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