Where in the world?

Where in the world?

Published by Francis Elms on 22nd Feb 2023

Fed up with the "rat race" and tired of the endless hours of commuting to work (unless you're working from home), or just fancy a change of direction in your life? If the opportunity arose and funds were plentiful, would you move to a different part of the world to enjoy a completely different lifestyle? Perhaps you've always wanted to set-up your own bar on the Spanish "Costas", run a complex of holiday "Gites" in the French countryside, or, just maybe, you've always wanted your own vineyard and winery!

Now that last one... it's tempting, very tempting. But everyone thinks they can sit back for most of the year watching the vines grow all by themselves, with absolutely no attention needed, and fabulous quality fruit will appear miraculously on the vines at harvest time. Pickers will be plentiful (if not, your family will be happy to help do all the back-breaking work!) and the world's greatest wine will burst onto a market waiting for the next best thing to arrive... YOUR wine.

The important question is where in the world would you go? 

How about the "New World"? If you're very adventurous, it's possible you'd pitch-up in the wild Patagonian south of Argentina to make elegant, cool climate reds with Malbec and Cabernet or, maybe the charm of the "Old World" wins your heart? It's certainly not going to be a decision made on strict business terms as you'll just know the right location when you see it. 

My "Old World" choice would probably be somewhere (anywhere) in Italy, or the relatively obscure French regions of Savoie/Jura approaching the Alps to the west of Switzerland. Having seen some TV programmes by James Martin highlighting this Savoie town's foodie credentials with numerous restaurants, world famous patisseries and amazing "fromage affineurs" (neighbouring Jura is home to France's most popular cheese, Comté), I'd suggest a house by the stunning lake and a vineyard in nearby Frangy. I'm not so sure about the 2CV; quaint, but I think a 4x4 might be more useful here in the hills. If you need more shopping, Geneva is only a 45 minute drive away to the north. More food and wine? Try a day trip to Lyon, Dijon or Beaune; all within easy driving distance of Annecy. I'm so tempted to see for myself. Checking flights now...

If I wanted to become a "cult" winemaker, I'd head for Georgia or Croatia. It's been proven that winemaking in Georgia has an 8000 year history and much is still made in the traditional manner. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, comes to mind. These days, most people have done orange wines in 100 year old, underground clay "qvevri", but I'd aim for making a great Saperavi red in Kakheti. Most, to my taste, are too rustic, or too international, losing the grape's natural character. It can be done better and someone is going to achieve this and it might as well be me, or you!

Growing the ultra rare Grk grape on the Dalmatian island of Korcula sounds ideal. If you've never tried the wonderful wine by "Bire", try to track it down. You'll probably have to take a boat from the Croatian mainland and pay the family a visit in person. Their winery and guesthouse is located right at the eastern end of the island overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Heavenly. A real hideaway.

Let's consider some factors you'll need to evaluate before choosing where to go.

Price is going to be a major influence on where you want to set up a new "boutique" vineyard.

Is it already an established operation? What's the reputation for quality? Does its wine actually sell? If none of these apply and you're starting the whole enterprise from scratch, here's a note of some land prices I saw in an article today:

France - Provence - St. Tropez - £90,000 per hectare (from Chateau Minuty which has 160ha of vineyards, so £14.4 million of land recently purchased by Moet [LVMH]) for your favourite rosé wine.

If you desire the superstar lifestyle including yacht, you can probably afford this, so why not take the plunge?

Most Brits relocating to France tend to head for somewhere further north in the Dordogne if they're looking to become bona fide French "vignerons". They might even try learning the language as well as how to make wine. Touché!

Buy Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc £29.99/bottle

New Zealand - Marlborough - currently land is selling for £208,000 per hectare (over twice the price of Provence!)

If you'd bought land in the main Wairau River region 50 years' ago, when the first commercial Sauvignon vineyards were planted, it would have only cost an average of £50/ha for potential prime vineyard land. Unbelievable today.

With hindsight, I could have owned Cloudy Bay by now. Another missed opportunity. So, what else is available?

Let's start with Europe, our closest neighbour who, let's face it, does have a great deal of experience in making wine.

Pretty much every country on the continent makes wine, so there's going to be plenty of choice here. For my personal taste, I'd have to add in a spectacular location for a new project like this. Tourism is a big part of marketing a wine these days and beautiful photos on the website, showing a rural idyll, will certainly help with your sales. Visitors could even have a relaxing stay at your property, or eat and drink in your own restaurant. You see, even more potential for new ventures, and you've still not decided where to go yet.

Possibly not the obvious first choice but, if you want to make white wine, then why not try Austria or Germany?

View all Mosel Riesling wines at Frazier's

Riesling, in both countries, is an obvious choice with the impossibly steep slopes and winding bends of the Mosel river producing delicately floral "Kabinett" examples with modern style, full-bodied dry whites from the best growers' single vineyards now becoming a staple for menus in top restaurants the world over. I would love to have my name as winemaker on the label of a "Grosses Gewachs" bottle. I can only dream.

Gruner Veltliner, being the number one grape in Austria, is much appreciated by the world's sommeliers. "GV" is perfect as a mouth-watering aperitif, or paired with white meat dishes. Styria, in southern Austria, with its verdant landscape of rolling green hills, is also a great place to grow Sauvignon Blanc grapes and, if you've got a sweet tooth, you could specialise in making dessert wines to pair with some sumptuous chocolate cake served in one of Vienna's renowned coffee shops. Make mine a Muscat Schilfwein. In fact, make that two glasses and a second slice of cake!

View all Austrian wines at Frazier's

Advantages? Lots of culture, winter skiing, cake and coffee in Vienna; lager, sauerkraut, bohemian Berlin and industrial rock by Rammstein in Germany!

Disadvantages? Some, or all, of the all depends. I know what I like. I'm sure you do, too.

I have to say that Spain, Portugal, Greece and the islands of Santorini, Sardinia & Corsica etc have their attractions, but for a move in Europe it's got to be mainland Italy. But where?

I love the food... too much pasta from Jamie Oliver recipes over the years and quite a few visits to Tuscany and Piedmont have almost made it feel like home. No villa with a pool in "Chiantishire" for me, but the idea sounds wonderful. Vineyards with attached house and winery will set you back multi-millions in these two regions, but you can get by on a smaller, more reasonable budget if you search carefully through the classified ads. I've just seen online a fully restored 2-bed Tuscan farmhouse for 110,000 euros. Now that's a sensible and very tempting price!

Buy 2018 Fontanafredda Barolo £44.99/bottle

Piedmont. A truly classic northern Italian region producing Barolo and Barbaresco, amongst others, from Nebbiolo. Jaw-dropping scenery and one of the most crazily expensive places on the planet. If you need to ask the price...

The beautiful Amalfi coast near Naples. Touristy and crowded, but a very different location for growing grapes. You won't find French grape varieties growing in this area of the world. It's all about "local" grapes for local people. Try some Fenile, Tronto of Furore, Ripolo, Pepella, Sciascinoso and Tintore of Tramonti. There are many more different ones in use as you head towards Naples. I had to look up the names as I couldn't think of any off the top of my head.

Strong legs and plenty of stamina are required to cope with working on the vertiginous slopes. You don't want to  suffer from a fear of heights here!

I haven't even considered Sicily, or Sardinia. They're almost another country within a country. I'll get back to you with suggestions when I've checked them out. A nice cruise around the "Med" should work for research purposes. Can I claim anything under expenses?

With so many places in Europe with potential for your new venture and lifestyle swap it's possibly all too easy to do. How about a drive down a long, dusty track to Swartland in South Africa? Now that really would be taking a risk. Out on your own, fighting the wild elements and really having to put in some hard graft to get the job done. Some will love the idea, others will opt for something a little easier. Take a short journey out of cosmopolitan Cape Town and you'll arrive in Constantia. Everywhere you look you'll see perfectly manicured vineyards with 5-star hotels attached and Michelin standard dining in the restaurants overlooking the mountains. I'm warming to this!

If your "hobby" vineyard can rival, or better, the Vin de Constance, you will have made the correct lifestyle change.

So, when are you going to move out?

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