Villecroze (France) (AFP)
With the imminent arrival of American film idol George Clooney, the rose vineyards of France have solidified their status as a prime target for high net worth investors floundering in one of the hottest sectors of the wine market.
“No matter how many times I say I don’t sell, the deals keep going up,” said Jean-Louis Croquet, a 78-year-old statistician who made his fortune with polling firm TNS Sofres.
Having bought Château Thuerry and its 400 hectares in 1998, Croquet has seen with his own eyes the race to buy back Provençal properties along the Côte d’Azur in recent years.
Individuals with deep pockets as well as luxury giants like LVMH are leaping into the action, hoping to take advantage of growing global demand for rosé wine.
“I’ve had dozens of offers since the start of the year, including from LVMH, which hunts like crazy,” said Croquet, whose son Thomas Mars of pop group Phoenix is married to film Sofia Coppola.
He divides new players into two categories: “Those with tons of money to invest, and real wine lovers, like me. “
“The big groups want to dominate the rose market because they have seen that it is a fabulous company that benefits from a lot of marketing,” he added.
Croquet counts as a neighbor the British investor James Dyson, owner of Domaine des Rabelles, who announces a “Bio-Active” cultivation method for his grapes.
Another Briton, real estate billionaire Mark Dixon, also owns a Provencal vineyard, as do French watchmaker Richard Mille and Kashmiri king Eric Bompard.
Agents specializing in French vineyards say buying acres in Provence is always cheaper than trying to gain a foothold in richer vineyards in Bordeaux or Burgundy.
And for French investors at least, big investments in wine are often motivated by more than a love of wine – raising money in a vineyard can often be used to avoid taxes on the produce of the wine. sale of a mature business.
– ‘Without limits’ –
The dry and rugged hills of the Var department, on the Mediterranean coast between Marseille and Cannes, are home to four of the most famous rose appellations – Bandol, Coteaux Varois, Côtes de Provence and Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence.
Together, they saw the strongest growth in French wine exports last year, with producers increasingly targeting the high end of the market.
Clooney plans to purchase Domaine Le Canadel near the village of Brignoles, which includes an 18th century mansion with its own swimming pool and tennis court.
It is about a half-hour drive from a vineyard that “Star Wars” producer George Lucas bought in 2017, and Miraval Estate owned by ex-Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
“It’s a very dynamic market,” said Adam Dakin of real estate agency Wine Objectives, which estimates that around a third of Provence’s wine-growing area has changed hands over the past 20 years.
He recently negotiated a purchase by William Chase, the British millionaire behind Tyrrells crisps, and the 2020 sale of a vineyard owned by American industrialist Tom Bove to French charcuterie magnate Michel Reybier.
This year, the house of Chanel made the headlines with a second purchase of a vineyard on the idyllic island of Porquerolles, just off the coast of La Londe-les-Maures, where LVMH bought Château Galoupet in 2019.
While the purchase of Clooney is not entirely a sure thing – the sale is disputed by another so-called buyer – its interest is to receive a cautious reception from the locals.
“It is talked about and leads to a better quality wine overall,” said Luc Nivière, 56, the fourth generation of his Domaine des Trois Terres, a family business, which is said to be one of the closest. neighbors of Clooney.
Nivière says he is always amazed by the “pharaonic” work carried out at the Fontainebleau estate by the French IT contractor Jean-Louis Bouchard, including a “panoramic” tasting cellar that can be rented for private events.
“But if tomorrow I want to buy a hectare of vines, it will be difficult because there is no limit to what these guys can spend,” he said.
© 2021 AFP