Stephen Solley, an expat from the UK lives in Beaujolais, Burgundy and says, not only is it a great place to live but it also offers opportunities for would be wine-makers…
There must be so many couples, frustrated by all the stresses of daily life, who in an ideal world would like to move their life and family to the country. The trouble is usually, they can’t see a way to making a living or pay the huge prices for a smallholding where they are. Little do they realise that there is such a life, well within their budgets, in one of the world’s most iconic and beautiful wine areas, the Beaujolais.
New Life in the Beaujolais Hills
Parts of the Beaujolais have been going through hard times recently. Hundreds of acres of vines have been pulled up. The teenage children of the present vignerons simply do not want to follow their parents. They are taking advantage of their educations to go into the cities to find easier work than the physical toughness of that of their fathers. A decent size vineyard will support one family, but not if it has to be divided by succession, with the income going several ways. The pendulum has swung too far, and as a result now is a brilliant time to replant and rebuild. The local councillors are desperate to have new people join their communes.
For the same price as a modest house or flat in London you could buy a house and vineyard and have money to spare for development. Look around the seriously hilly slopes of the Beaujolais Villages parts of the region, near, for instance the villages of Quincie or Marchampt. Here the prices for the wine are modest, and they are the most labour intensive to produce. Almost everything has to be done by hand. The wine, as a result, is some of the finest in the whole of the Beaujolais, fresh vibrant serious and delicious. The property prices are correspondingly low. A fine old farmhouse with space to make the wine is a fraction of what such property would cost in England. And the French are desperate to keep this part of the Beaujolais vibrant like its wine. And the loveliest part of Beaujolais with the best wine is the mountains and that’s where the future could lie for some brave expats. Marketing is easy, the wines are popular in English speaking countries and there aren’t the restrictions that Beaujolais farmers endure. The product has a world-wide reputation that has been growing explosively in recent years.
For those with a long memory, the world of Clochemerle will resonate. One of France’s little pinnacles of literature, it comically describes the conflict between church and state over the shenanigans of a urinal, built by a socialist mayor too close to the church. The BBC made a wonderful series of it back in the 1970’s, narrated by Peter Ustinov with Cyril Cusack, Wendy Hiller, Kenneth Griffith, Roy Dotrice, a roll-call of the greats. The BBC moved in to the village of Marchampt to make the series – it was, and still remains, the perfect expression of life in the Beaujolais as it has existed for ever.
All the village now needs is energetic people to grow and make wine. The local school is good. The Commune is vibrant. Come, see and make wine!