Vintage years in your own winery
behind the Costa del Sol and, with a little help from their neighbours, toiled for a day and a half to gather and press the organically grown cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, merlot and shiraz grapes from their six acres of vines.
“The red was a fine crop, the sugar perfect,” says Howson, a businessman who with his wife, Lee-Anne, divides his time between this rural finca, a home in nearby Marbella, and Wimbledon in south-west London. “We make around 2,000 bottles a year, to give to friends or sell locally, and gift the sweet white wine – from the Pedro Ximenez grapes – to our staff. We could make a lot more if we worked at it more vigorously but, for me, it’s always been a little hobby rather than a business.
“Having a vineyard has been wonderful. With no frost in the winter, it’s the perfect climate here. You can see all the way to the Mediterranean. I love sitting outside the bodega, having a wine-tasting session with friends, knowing exactly which vines the wine came from, and then not having a headache in the morning as it’s all organic. Guests are fascinated by our rather eccentric wine activities.”
Indeed, many wine enthusiasts will toy with the idea of owning a property like Howson’s, but it’s a dream that many won’t realise because of the hard work or deep pockets required; if you are not hands-on, you need to pay someone else to be.
Singers and actors seem particularly into the idea: Sir Cliff Richard, Mick Hucknall, Antonio Banderas, Sam Neill and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have all owned vineyards. Buying one for the lifestyle benefits remains very popular, says Tim Swannie of Home Hunts, a buying agent in France that has a specialist vineyard division. “From young couples looking for a retreat, to City boys, retired couples and families looking for a B&B property with revenue, we help a diverse range of people find lifestyle vineyard properties in France,” he says. “We get a lot of interest from British clients, as well as Dutch, Belgians, Germans, Scandinavians and some Americans,” he adds. “Most don’t want to turn the vines into a commercial venture, but love the idea of being able to produce their own wine for friends and family.”
Looking after a hobby vineyard in France or Spain doesn’t have to dominate your time. You could get a
A chateau near Pau, main, €2.09m with Home Hunts; Cedric Howson’s wine estate, left, €1.5m with Marbella Homes (marbellahomes. com); far right, a house at Château St Pierre de Serjac, €650,000 (domaine demeure.com)
A Chianti estate, right, €4.8m, and a vineyard in Mendoza, left, through Sphere Estates