Britons now form the largest group of foreigners buying up French vineyards in the Rhone Valley and the Languedoc-Roussillon regions. British investment now stands ahead of the Swiss, Dutch and Germans, according to Vinea Transaction who carried out a survey.
The trend, which is repeating itself in other wine-growing areas such as Provence, the south West, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, is being driven by interest from former City workers seeking a change in lifestyle.
The French, however, are abandoning their vineyards at an unprecedented rate. The number of independent wine-makers fell from 60,000 to 38,000 between 1979 and 2000, and is estimated to have dropped by a further 8,000 in the past seven years.
Competition from so-called New World wines is putting pressure on vignerons from the lesser-known French regions. That combined with an increased awareness of drink-driving dangers in France and a general reduction in the number of litres drunk by the French each year is taking its toll on the market.
Prices of vineyards range from EUR 20,000 a hectare up to EUR 150,000.
Foreign owners of vineyards in the Languedoc-Roussillon and Rhone Valley, according to Vinea Transaction’s survey:
13%: The Netherlands
See also Decanter.com’s Blog