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Oxford graduate Alexander Hall took a sabbatical from investment banking to go and work on his stepfather’s vineyards in Malborough in New Zealand 15 years ago. ‘I was hooked and started plotting my departure,’ he recalls. A year later he was living in Bordeaux, ‘pruning vines, cleaning tanks and sitting on tractors’ – an immersive experience which afforded him knowledge and contacts in the region.
Hall, who speaks fluent French and teaches at the prestigious École du Vin in Bordeaux, where he has lived since 2005, set up Vineyard Intelligence to offer on- and off-market property search in France, as well as audit, evaluation and negotiation services and post-acquisition advice. Although many people are drawn to the idea of owning a winery, it’s not a simple acquisition.
‘I am very honest with people and make them aware of the risks of owning and running a vineyard in advance,’ he states. ‘This is an investment and can be less or more successful based on various factors. The caveat is, it’s farming – you may get hail or frost – so it has an unpredictability that certain other business don’t have. But the flipside is that in reality it’s distribution, pricing, packaging and marketing that drives how successful your business is.’