It is the wine lovers’ dream. To own a vineyard in Italy and enjoy the fruits of your labours by sitting under a leafy pergola on a warm summer’s evening drinking a bottle or two from your very own harvest.
Italian wine is famous all over the world. There are over a million vineyards from north to south and Italy’s varied terrain produces a great variety of wine from the sweet sparkling Moscato from Piemonte to the spicy purple Salice Salentino from the bottom of Puglia in the south.
Its population drinks more wine per head than any other country (an average of 59 litres) and it is the world’s biggest wine maker, producing 4.7 billion litres of wine in 2008.
Buying a Vineyard in Italy
It is perfectly possible to buy your own vineyard, so the most obvious thing to do is to centre your search either around an area of the country you would like to live in or around an area whose wine you like. The ideal is to combine the two and find a vineyard producing wine you enjoy in an area you and your family would be happy living in.
There a number of small vineyards for sale all over the country. Owning a small vineyard (from a hectare of vines upwards) usually means that it produces enough for your own consumption and may be the perfect starting point if you are inexperienced.
On the other hand, there are also going concerns for sale with their own winery attached and which produce enough wine to sell.
The ‘dream’ property for making a living has between 20 and 40 hectares of vineyards. Twenty hectares should produce about 130,000 bottles of wine.
The Vineyard Experience
If your vineyard in Italy is just a hobby, then it doesn’t mater too much if you have little or no experience. There will be plenty of locals on hand to teach you and if it all goes wrong, there’s always next year.
If you are intending to take on a going concern without experience then you have two options:
Buy a vineyard with its own production team in place or get as much experience as possible beforehand by working on vineyards, going on courses and getting qualifications. Although there are romantic stories on TV about people with no experience managing massive vineyards single handed by learning on the job, these really are the exceptions. It makes far more business sense to take on a vineyard with a manager if you don’t know what you are doing.
It may sound romantic, but running is a vineyard is basically an agricultural enterprise and you are basically a farmer. As such you need to speak good Italian to deal with suppliers and distributors as well as the workers looking after the vines and also the taxman.
Organic and Biodynamic Vineyards
One idea should you decide to buy a vineyard is to specialize. You have probably heard of organic wine known as vino biologico made from uve da agricoltura biologica (organic grapes) and, although these are harder to find than normal vineyards, they do come up for sale. The advantage of buying an already established organic set-up is that the time has already been spent eliminating chemicals and pesticides. It takes longer starting from scratch.
But how about taking things a step further and aiming for a biodynamic vineyard? This method of production is based on the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner and involves applying special preparations to the vines as well as handling and processing the wine is a specific way. The guidelines are laid down by the Demeter association and the movement is growing in popularity in Italy. One such vineyard is La Gaia which makes multi award winning wine. Read about its biodynamic approach here.
A Vineyard and Agritourism
An alternative to running a vineyard in order to make a living from the wine is to buy a property with a small working vineyard which then may allow you to offer agritourism holidays. As we have written about in another article you can only offer farm holidays if you are actually a working farmer and a vineyard may allow you to do just that. You will need to get advice from your local chamber of commerce or commercialista (accountant).