Living in: wine regions
Barossa Valley vineyard near Adelaide, Australia. (BBC/Richard Sowersby)
A bottle of rose or Chianti on the table, lines of vines — straight as pins — marching across a valley floor, a sun-drenched patio: this is the good life as dreamt of by oenophiles around the world.
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Wine regions also tend to have the weather and locations that vines and people love: sunny days, cool nights, near mountains or the sea. While bargains are hard to come by, for those who are lucky enough to own a little piece of wine country, the reward is in every sip.
This spectacular region is at the top of most people’s dream list of places to live, wine lover or not. From La Maremma to Florence, every hilltop village has its own character and the lands that produce Chianti, Brunello and Montepulciano, also yield delicious specialties from wild boar to truffles. There is every type of property to fit every type of budget, from castles to farmhouses to villas and apartments. While everyone wants a pristinely restored stone house, full of character and original features, if you are prepared to do some work, you could find a house you really love at a reasonable price.
Tuscany is huge and prices vary massively from area to area. Some are better value for your money than others. Close to Florence and Siena is pricey, as is the Chianti region and the coast. But the good news is that prices have come down quite a bit since their peak in 2008 “Prices have dropped so much they can’t go down any further,” said Karen Roos of Casa Tuscany. “It is a good time to invest, as Tuscany has a strong rental market and it is always a safe bet to buy here.”
For the best prices, head inland and away from the big cities and towns. “Go rural if you want to spend less,” advised Roos. “The more isolated, the cheaper it will be.” She recommends looking in the countryside north of Lucca where a village house costs roughly 100,000 euros. The area is near the sea, skiing in the mountains, has medieval villages and is less than an hour from the airport in Pisa. “You have quite a lot of choice around there for 100,000 to 150,000 euros and for 300,000 and up, you can find your dream home,” Roos said.
The city of Bordeaux has gone through a major facelift recently, with the golden Neoclassical buildings and hotel particuliers powerscrubbed of decades of dirt and new green-transport and tram lines running out from the city centre. Half of the city was made an UNESCO world heritage site for its historical architecture. Buying in town means looking at apartments and houses that range from 900,000 euros up to 3 million. The market here is recovering well.
Outside the city, where some of the world’s best terroirs are found, are the vineyards. “We also have a lot of buyers for whole vineyards, especially in the Médoc, Pessac Léognan and Saint-Emilion regions,” said Olivier Vizerie of Millesime Immobilier. Those can cost up to 100 million euros. If that is out of your price range, more affordable countryside property can be found in the Entre-Deux-Mers region, between the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, with its pretty small towns and lovely views. According to Vizerie, houses here can run anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million euros.
Holiday homes in the Bassin d’Arcachon on the Atlantic coast where French actors like Marion Cotillard and Guillaume Canet spent their downtime are also popular — and expensive.
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Napa Valley, California
More affordable than Bordeaux, Napa Valley is a top spot for food and wine lovers from around the United States and the world. Located just an hour north of San Francisco the draw is the warm weather, beautiful views and sophisticated viticulture and cuisine. The low hills and green valleys lure many to tour around, picnic and dream of grander ambitions.