Thursday, 28 October 2021 16:30

Escape to the Chateau

Written by  Bob Campbell
Bob Campbell Bob Campbell

OPINION: If you have watched the television programme Escape to the Chateau you may, like me, have been tempted to put your house on the market and trade up to a magnificent chateau in a desirable corner of France.

The TV show reveals that behind the grand facade often lies a crumbling structure that partly explains why the property appears to be a bargain. French real estate company Safer has published a report on vineyard land prices that range from tempting to eye-watering. The average cost of vineyard land in France in 2020 was NZD$252,476 per hectare. That is about the same price as a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in Marlborough. In 2020, 14,600ha of vineyard land was sold, which represents 1.87 percent of France's total vineyard area.

Perhaps you would like a plot of land in Champagne. In 2020 the average price per hectare of productive vineyard land was NZD$1,87,726, but if you are relying on your crop of grapes to provide an income you should be aware that prices have been falling since 2019 because of exporting difficulties and a drop in domestic consumption. The Cote d'Or in Burgundy is a safer option insofar as land values are concerned. Land prices in Burgundy have been steadily rising for the past 10 years.

During a visit to Puligny in 2014 I talked about land prices with the head of the local appellation. A recent sale of half a row of grapes in the Grand Cru Montrachet vineyard fetched many millions of dollars for the equivalent of one hectare. "If you pay such a high price for the vineyard you will never be able to make a profit," he explains. "Premier Cru vineyards are now so expensive that it could take as much as 30 years before you could make a profit." Both have become trophies like a large yacht or jet aircraft, although they have the distinct advantage of appreciating rather than depreciating in value.

Bordeaux will appeal to many Australasians as it is close to the sea and has a temperate climate that has been compared to that of Hawke's Bay. Vineyard prices in the Gironde are a reasonably affordable NZD$215,276 per hectare, although that figure disguises a large variation. You can pay as little as NZD$6,700/ha for unfavourable frost-prone vineyard sites where the owner is struggling to find a buyer. Don't expect a chateau at this end of the market.

Vineyards in the sought-after appellations of Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux are seriously expensive, especialy when they are on top sites. They might fetch as much as NZD$4 million/ha. These properties are seen as safe havens, for the rich and famous at least.

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