European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards | Mint

European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards

European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards

Summary

New developments across southern Europe are offering second-home buyers a chance at winemaking without having to roll up their sleeves.

With careers in Northern California’s tech sector and a primary home on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, Clifton Lewis Lyles and his wife, Serene Lewis Lyles, have long spent their down time among the vineyards and wineries of Sonoma and Napa counties. Now in their early 50s, the two are getting ready for something new—their own bit of vineyard and their own private wine label, some 5,500 miles away in the Alentejo region of Portugal.

The opportunity comes with their new vacation home: a two-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot villa, currently under construction, in L’and Vineyards, a luxury development about an hour’s drive from Lisbon. The 163-acre estate, with 15 acres of vineyards, lets its homeowners—spread across a total of about 80 units in the coming years—become de facto winemakers.

The Lewis Lyles duo, who are spending about $1 million to build and furnish the new home, don’t have to worry about upkeep of any kind related to the vineyard.  They will concern themselves only with what to call their private vintage and what their customized wine label should look like.

“We put money down sight unseen," says Serene Lewis Lyles, a senior director at Meta, after her husband researched the development online. Clifton Lewis Lyles is an executive at a Silicon Valley food-services company serving the tech industry. A trained chef, he is designing the couple’s new wine cellar.

In Tuscany, Philippe and Luisa Le Bourgeois, a Paris-based couple, are closing on a centuries-old, 7,300-square-foot house in Tenuta di Forci. The hillside vineyard complex of historic structures, just outside the walled town of Lucca, is being relaunched as a biodynamic winery, farm and residential estate.

Like the Lewis Lyleses, the Le Bourgeois couple—he is a  59-year-old French financial executive and she is a 54-year-old community volunteer who grew up in Italy—will use the home for vacations in the short-term and for retirement in the future. Set to buy one of 11 villas on offer, they plan to take advantage of the Forci estate’s ecologically minded approach to viticulture, which includes the option of private-label wines for its owners. Eventually, the development also will offer a range of holistic amenities, from organic produce to a yoga studio.

“Being a Franco-Italian couple, we’re obviously very interested in wine," says Luisa Le Bourgeois.

The couple, who are still finalizing the sale, wouldn’t comment on the purchase price. But Robert-Jan van Ogtrop, the Dutch entrepreneur who is chairman of the Forci project, says buyers can expect to pay $1.6 million to $9.7 million to purchase and renovate their new homes, which will be fashioned out of the estate’s existing structures.

Buyers receive a number of bottles of wine, he says, “but we do all the production." Three of the 11 available villas are under contract.

The turnkey vineyard has arrived.

For some time, European turnkey villas have attracted second-home buyers who want everything provided for, from light fixtures to cutlery. Now, L’and and Tenuta di Forci are among a number of new developments in southern Europe catering to homeowners who seek the glamour and the pleasure of winemaking without fretting over the harvest, the pruning and the bottling.

José de Sousa Cunhal Sendim, founder and CEO of L’and, says the resort-like development combines a wine-theme hotel and vacation rentals with homeownership among rolling hills and an idyllic lake. Attractions include a restaurant with locally sourced produce, a new lakeside cafe, a spa and proximity to Evora, a historic city with Roman origins.

L’and grows four varieties of red-wine grapes, including Touriga Nacional, associated with Portugal’s finest vintages, and the lighter Touriga Franca, often used to make Port wine. Later, says Cunhal Sendim, the vineyard will plant a wider range of grapes, from classic Cabernet Sauvignon to Arinto, a white-wine grape that flourishes in hot climates like that in Alentejo.

New York’s Ronen Seri and Sara Rotter were early L’and buyers. Rotter, 46, a sales director at a Manhattan real-estate company, and her husband, a 58-year-old Manhattan restaurateur, had booked a L’and villa rental for a few nights while exploring the country in 2017.

“We were blown away by it," Rotter says. “As I was packing, I said, ‘I wonder if they sell these.’ " The setting, adds Seri, reminds him of the idyllic climate of his native Jerusalem.

Seri and his wife have recently upgraded their L’and investment. In early 2019, they paid $459,000 for a two-bedroom house, which they then sold in 2022 for $631,000. That same year, they paid $1.33 million for a 4,830-square-foot, three-bedroom home with a separate studio they plan to use as a workout room and office. The new home is set for completion in mid-2024.

The couple, who have homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons, plan to spend up to two months a year there. They will let L’and manage vacation rentals in their absence.

Tenuta di Forci is part of Tuscany’s Colline Lucchesi wine region, where a range of soils and a flexible winemaking tradition can accommodate Tuscany’s signature Sangiovese grapes, as well as French varieties like Merlot. Forci’s hilltop location—a prime draw for the Le Bourgeois couple—offers views of Lucca and the Tuscan coastline, down toward Pisa and Livorno. It also provides an ideal microclimate for growing grapes, marked by a higher elevation and sheltered conditions, says Forzi winemaker Saverio Petrilli.

Another turnkey-vineyard development, Le Ville Serristori, is going up in one of Europe’s most celebrated wine regions—Bolgheri, in southwestern Tuscany,  about 20 miles down the coast from Livorno.

Associated with the so-called Super Tuscan revolution of the 1970s, which brought Bordeaux grape varieties such as Cabernet Franc to a once-remote corner of the Tuscan coast, Bolgheri has lured Italy’s leading winemaking dynasties, including the Gajas of Piedmont and the Antinoris of Florence.

Le Ville Serristori, just up the road from the Antinori holdings, is the brainchild of Florence’s Fratini family, whose 3,000-acre parcel of coastal land was first purchased as a private vacation compound in the late 1990s. It now includes a 90-acre residential development, where prospective buyers can expect an interview with a Fratini before having an offer accepted.

The family is marketing a small group of six new homes with freehold lots on the estate, with prices between $11 million and $16 million. The price covers construction and landscaping. The first of the new homes, featuring lavish marble finishes and a large outdoor pool, is set for completion early next year. Each new home will be allotted just over an acre of a private turnkey vineyard. Five of the six have been sold.

Le Ville Serristori is connected to the family’s launch of its own new Super Tuscan wine label, starting this year, and estate homeowners can take advantage of the Fratinis’ brand-new winemaking facility, fashioned out of an old farmhouse.

Traversed by a grand avenue of towering pine trees—a souvenir of the estate’s aristocratic ownership in the 19th century—the rustic development is marked by rolling vineyards, vast farmland and marine light, as well as proximity to the village of Bolgheri, a point of pilgrimage for wine-lovers around the world. Homeowners can make use of the Fratini family’s private beach access—a rarity in Italy. They can also take advantage of the local restaurants operated by the Bolgheri’s exclusive wineries.

New homeowners are being given a complementary green Land Rover to crisscross the rural setting, says Jacopo Fratini, CEO of the Fingen Group, the family’s real-estate company. They also can look forward to a beach club.

The cost of participating in the winemaking side of these developments varies. At L’and, new homeowners are entitled to 100 personalized bottles a year at no extra cost, says Cunhal Sendim. Later, they can pay anywhere from $8 to $24 a bottle.

In Italy, says Serimm/Knight Frank’s Alessandro Deghé, the listing agent for both the Forci and Serristori estates, annual service costs for homeowners, including wine-related expenses, can run from $26,000 at Forci up to $108,000 in Bolgheri.

La Melonera, a development in the south of Spain, offers larger lots and more obscure grape varieties. Located near Ronda, in the foothills of Andalusia’s Sierra de las Nieves mountain range, a 90-minute drive from Malaga and its international airport, the project takes its name from a nearly forgotten red grape called Rayada Melonera.  Its turnkey vineyard also is producing wines from a host of lesser-known local grapes, which the developers came upon in a work by a 19th-century Andalusian botanist.

Set over 460 acres, the estate has 29 listings between $3 million and $7.6 million. Three have sold.

In January 2022,  Soren Skou, 59, the former CEO of Maersk, the Danish shipping company, and his wife, Lene Skou, 59, a financial executive, bought a 10,225-square-foot La Melonera home with four bedrooms and four bathrooms, completed in 2017.  It sits on a 13.8-acre lot and comes with its own portion of the estate’s vineyard.

Soren Skou wouldn’t comment on how much they paid, but cited a current listing on the estate, somewhat smaller than his, with an asking price of $4.1 million.  He says he plans to tweak the existing interior by spending about $100,000 to create a new home office.

Taking a more active role than many other turnkey vineyard buyers, the couple and their three adult children join in a post-harvest blending session, when they get to fine-tune their personal  cuvée.  Wine-related service costs start at about $17,300, says Le Melonera founder Jorge Viladomiu. The charge includes 450 bottles of private-label wine.

The couple, who live in Copenhagen, have decided to spend several months a year at La Melonera. They were initially drawn to the development by the minimalist architecture and by the chance to “stay at home, barbecue and enjoy life" on the large lot, says Soren Skou.  But the turnkey vineyard option helped seal the deal.

“We thought having our own vineyard and our own wine would be fun," he says. “And La Melonera makes it easy for us."

European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
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European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
View Full Image
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
View Full Image
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
View Full Image
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
View Full Image
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
View Full Image
European Developers Are Wooing Wine Lovers With Their Own Hassle-Free Vineyards
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