Château les Carrasses is more than just a holiday home. It’s an overseas home that gives you a chance to buy into a lifestyle. At Les Celliers du Vent, a small winery in the Languedoc, David Alcaraz, the chief winemaker sets a challenge. Wit five bottles of syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon – oaked and unoaked - to play with, we have to create a new blend to be sold in Waitrose.
This isn’t just taste testing to amuse tourists, “This wine has to be on the shelves next week so we have to come up with something good,” says Alcaraz whose clients include big winemakers and supermarkets, which approach him to create their own brand labels.
We set about sniffing, spitting, debating whether there’s too much leather or not enough blackberry, before eventually agreeing on a blend that satisfies Alcaraz.
“This is the special super secret stuff you never get to do as a tourist,” says a fellow taster, Suzanne Michaud, a former investment banker from New York.
It’s true that the average visitor to the Languedoc won’t enjoy such a behind the scenes insight. By contrast those who buy a holiday home at Château Les Carrasses, a 19th century wine estate spanning 13 acres in Capestang, near Beziers, will be able to become involved in every part of wine production, from te initial vine training to bottling – and of course drinking – although there is no guarantee your work will ever end up on a supermarket shelve. Whatever remains after every owner has received their 50 free cases a year will be sold as the Château’s own vintage.
“You can become a winemaker – or as close as you can get without the panic of “Oh my God, the frost has ruined my harvest and now my kids won’t eat.”” Says Karl O’Hanlon, Director of Domaine & Demeure which is developing the site.
“There may be 60% fewer buyers in the market than there were a couple of years ago, but they are all telling me they want authenticity, integration and intimacy in interesting old renovated buildings, in or near a lively village or near a beach.”
David Sullivan, a solicitor from North London is amongst them. He paid £317,000 for the two-bedroom workshop whose old car pit will be turned into a glass floor overlooking the cave below. It was the opportunity to become involved in wine production that drew him to Château les Carrasses, rather than other conversions of historic buildings.
“I’ve been babbling on about finding a place in the sun for some time – I’ve looked into Portugal, Mallorca and France – but this project jumped out from the rest, with the wine element bring a social dimension to the development and attracting an international range of buyers,” says Sullivan. The Languedoc is easy to get to for an impromptu long weekend, with lovely countryside, nice Mediterranean beaches and almost year round sunshine.
There are also apartments in the outbuildings of the fairytale turreted chateau. Buyers will share club areas, tennis court and pool (some properties have private pools). OHanlon says he expects good rental demand: letting for the entire season should give a 4-5% return. Work on the conversion will start in January, with properties ready in mid-2011.
Château les Carrasses appeared in the Daily Mail with the following content.
A vintage investment. You don’t need to be rich to make your own wine. An increasing number of developments around the world are tuning in to the popularity of wine tourism and providing private individuals with the chance to own a home in a wine producing region.
Such properties offer the best of both worlds. The experience to become involved with winemaking without te responsibility of running a vineyard. Many British people like the idea of making their own wine. So they come to France an join winemaking classes and join wine clubs near their holiday homes. At Château les Carrsses you can get involved in the winemaking process.
Karl O’Hanlon of the project’s developer Domaine & Demeure says tat the wine tourism element increases the rental potential of the 28 properties, 20 minutes from Beziers. “Wine tourism is on the up, with yields of 4 to 4.5% possible if owners rent out their homes during the high season,” he says. “Plus there’s the added authenticity of owning – or staying in – a historic building on a domaine that has produced wine since 1886.
The opportunities for integrating with the local community that wine production provides is appealing to British buyers in particular who want to live in the heart of a French community.
Château St Pierre de Serjac is a 19th century wine domaine in the Languedoc, South of France, extensively restored as a boutique winery, luxury hotel and villa estate. Click to visit the website.
Château Les Carrasses is a 19th century wine domaine in the Languedoc, South of France, extensively restored as a boutique winery, luxury hotel and villa estate. Click to visit the website.
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