Live the Dream? No thanks.


Who, as a wine fan, hasn’t ever taken a brief moment to imagine having their own vineyard?

Exactly. No expert in celebrity matters, I did, however, notice an item from the world of showbiz. It would seem that Brad Pitt and his wife, Angelina Jolie have split up. That’s sad. So, there is now a question mark over the vineyard they bought for a snip at $60 million – Chateau Miraval. (That’s about £23.27p these days in sterling isn’t it?)  It is a good one, making the only rose wine on the Wine Spectator’s top 100 list.

The question is who will get it? Brad, I suspect. Angelina won’t be interested. Because the reality of vineyard ownership is rather different from the dream and maybe blokes are happier to ignore the realities and see it as a sort of costly hobby. Like owning a vintage Harley Davidson.

We’ve all had the dream. The evening sun setting as we sit on a terrace, laughing and smiling, sipping a chilled glass of fabulous white WE have made, whilst admiring the neat lines of vines stretching away over the deepening blood red of the horizon. Our friends gasp in awe at the beauty of our lives and how we are living the dream. Yup. That’s about it.

Bill Price wouldn’t agree. He’s an incredibly wealthy American who founded a private equity bank and also owns several vineyards in California. As somebody pretty sharp when it comes to the old finances, in a recent New York Time piece, even he admits he can’t work out how a vineyard works in cash terms.

Celebrity vineyard ownership isn’t new. In Greek times, philosophers, writers, politicians and generals all got interested in winemaking and vineyard ownership. More recently, ownership takes many forms. Bob Dylan allowed an Italian Winery to use his name and his album artwork to celebrate “Planet Waves” in 1974. He didn’t make any wine and it was a one-off. French actor Gerard Depardieu owns many vineyards around the world and clearly benefits from the associated calories. He lists his job in his passport as “winemaker”. Sir Cliff Richard is into his wine growing, as is film director Francis Ford Coppola – owner of a major winery in the USA. Johnny Depp and the Beckhams have vineyards for just “personal use” - imagine that!

So the harsh reality involves investment (a young vine won’t produce useful grapes for 5 years or so), equipment, bad weather ruining a whole year’s work, back-breaking pruning and strict regulations. Add rebellious workers, tax, cash flow, label printing, advertising costs and selling to a difficult market and…..well……it seems unlimited wealth is required.   

So, given all that, my advice is stick to the day job. Ten quid spent in the wine shop seems to deliver faster results.  You can always go home, turn on the sun lamp, put on some recordings of French peasants singing, shut your eyes and imagine. That’s why a dream is called that, a dream.