JOIN IN THE CEL­LARS

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Property -

400 grapevines. It had al­ways been Terence’s dream to make wine. “We planted 400 vines be­cause that is the num­ber you are al­lowed to have with­out a per­mit,” he says. “It works out as an al­lowance of about a bot­tle of wine a day, which ev­ery French house­hold would con­sider a sen­si­ble amount.” Over the years they have made France their home, brought up two boys who con­sider them­selves French, and their best friends are French. In late Septem­ber, when the grapes have swelled and the sun is still hot, the Stokes and their friends start the har­vest early in the morn­ing, bend­ing low with their se­ca­teurs to snip at the vines, hop­ing to fin­ish be­fore the sun is too high in the sky. “Soon af­ter mid­day we are fin­ished,” says Terence. “Then we go into the shade on our ter­race, sit around and eat Lancashire hotpot. We think our French neigh­bours en­joy it, made with our own lamb. With some smoked salmon to start and last year’s wine to drink.” La Barthe­serre is like a film set. You ap­proach down a long drive flanked by cy­press trees to find a 16th-cen­tury stone house with a mini tur­ret. There are four bed­rooms, a ter­race, and pas­ture and out­build­ings. The sheep pens and shel­ters are not as full as they were, as they now keep only five favourites from the orig­i­nal flock. The grapes pro­duce 300 bot­tles a year, stored in a wine cel­lar. Terence and An­gela now feel too old to lift sheep, so they are sell­ing through Knight Frank (020 7861 5015) at €645,000 (£545,000) in or­der to buy some­thing smaller nearby. “The wine gets bet­ter ev­ery year,” says Terence. “We have syrah and gre­nache grapes and we have added tan­nat, which is lo­cal and gives a bit of bite, and we put them through a hand-op­er­ated presser. I find look­ing af­ter vines is like look­ing af­ter an­i­mals. They re­spond to your at­ten­tions.” You don’t have to own the land to be in­volved in the ven­dange. Jon Neigh­bour and his fi­ancée, Ni­cole Bowler, join in the har­vest each year when they visit their flat at Château Les Car­rasses, a château in the Langue­doc that has been re­stored and split into 28 apart­ments and houses by Do­maine & De­meure. The com­pany, backed by a wine pro­ducer, buys dis­used vine­yards and brings them back to life. “We go out ev­ery Septem­ber and take part in the pick­ing,” says Jon. “We own three hectares of land with the flat and are given 40 cases of the wine each year. I felt re­ally proud when we tasted our first vin­tage.” They feel ro­man­ti­cally bound to the château – they got en­gaged there last year and plan to marry there next May. “Les Car­rasses fills the gap be­tween self-cater­ing and a ho­tel,” says Jon. “It is so peace­ful. When we look out over the vine­yards we feel a sense of own­er­ship, con­nected to the land.” There is a restau­rant, pool, ten­nis and boulo­drome, and flats can be let when they aren’t be­ing used. Do­maine & De­meure is now restor­ing Château St Pierre de Ser­jac in the same way, where prices for flats will be about €379,000 (£320,000) to €800,000 (£675,000) and more for the most lux­u­ri­ous (for sales, call 0845 686 8670). As France pulls out of the re­ces­sion along­side other Euro­pean coun­tries, older English cou­ples are sell­ing up and new Fran­cophiles are mov­ing in. Knight Frank says sales in Gas­cony have dou­bled since last year and in­quiry lev­els this sum­mer have been 35 per cent higher than last. “Over the last five or six years the mar­ket has come down a lot, by around 40 per cent in some parts,” says Matthew Hod­der-Wil­liams, in charge of south-west France at Knight Frank. “Com­pared to the Cotswolds you can get a mon­strous amount of prop­erty in Gas­cony. Buy­ers are younger. Cou­ples in their thir­ties and for­ties want a lovely sum­mer fam­ily home but also a Euro­pean base from which they can reach other parts of the con­ti­nent. They can see that the tech­nol­ogy has im­proved a lot, and ac­ces­si­bil­ity is good with the TGV, re­gional air­ports and a new air­port which has opened at Brive. You can stay con­nected and work from there if you need to.” Be part of the ven­dange in the morn­ing and have a con­fer­ence call with the of­fice in Lon­don in the af­ter­noon.

Vine time: a château in the Langue­doc, top; the Stokes, above, are sell­ing

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