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.
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 Florentine: English-language site for expats with events and features
Over a Tuscan Stove: dining guides for Florence and Chianti
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.
Sud Ouest Magazine: French-language, news, blogs, events
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.
While perennially popular, prices have come down over the past few years. The market recently started to pick up since spring. “Buyers who have been sitting on the fence are now making decisions,” said KC Garrett, an estate agent with Frank Howard Allen Realtors. “The most activity is in the entry level and high-end sectors.”
Many at the entry level are looking for homes in and around the towns of Napa, St Helena, Yountville and Calistoga. These start around $400,000. The country properties with vineyard views, pool and guest quarters come in at around $2 to $3 million. “Each town is a little different with its own personality,” said Garrett. “Make sure you know the ideal place for you to buy.”
Napa Valley Register: locals news and events
The Cork Board: blog about Valley wine news and happenings
Colchagua Valley, Chile
Chile is producing wine on par with Napa and doing interesting things with varietals that get wine experts very excited. Many superlative vintages come from Colchagua Valley, where the high mountains trap the warm air in and keep cold Pacific air out. Producers make big, powerful reds here and Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet grapes thrive. Major wineries are buying up land and investing heavily in vines, new plantings and building up the infrastructure for tourism, furtherbolstering the valley’s Ruto del Vino.
While there is plenty of land for sale, houses are scarce, so most buyers build their own house. “There are very few planning laws here,” said Matt Ridgway of Chile Investments. “Which means you can buy land or a vineyard and pick the perfect spot for your house.” Most people are looking for around 10 hectares for a vineyard with a house, but they realize the easiest way is to build one. A single hectare plot is a bargain at about 11.5 million Chilean pesos for undeveloped land, and 16 to 12 million Chilean pesos for the same sized plot in an orchard or vineyard. Building costs are around 500,000 Chilean peso per square metre.
While Chile is a safe and stable country, with an honest police force, be sure you do your homework to find a professional estate agent who can help you get money into the country legally and efficiently. Once you do, buying property is fairly straightforward. Neighbouring Cachapoal Valley is heating up too, especially with high-end wineries and resorts like Vina Vik drawing an international clientele.
Colchagua Valley: info on the Ruta del Vino, events, hotels and more
The Santiago Times: English language newspaper
The Barossa Valley produces some of Australia’s best-known and rightly acclaimed wines, from the mass market Jacob’s Creek and Penfolds to smaller producers such as St Hallet and Charles Melton. More than 150 wineries make the country’s best Shiraz and Viognier, plus many other varieties, in this green-and-gold valley about an hour from Adelaide, the state capital.
There is a range of housing types in the three main towns of Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston, including houses in vineyards, farmhouses and vacation homes along the Murray River. The nearby beaches are also popular for vacation home buyers who like to swim, dive and fish.
The housing market has cooled off recently, with vineyard prices dropping 30% and sales of residential allotments down by as much as 50%, according to David Braunack, sales consultant/principal of Homburg estate agency. “The average house price in Barossa is Aus $385,000, and properties near the water can vary from a couple of hundred thousand dollars to several million,” he said.
Prospective buyers should familiarize themselves with the area they want to invest in, the title system (if it is unrestricted) and if the property is on a town water’s supply, which is a priority in this dry climate.
Barossa & Light Herald: local newspaper with news and features
Barossa: comprehensive website about the region’s wineries, restaurants and more