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Monday Nov 07, 2011

Vineyard for sale as residential estate loses interest in farming

A small vineyard, isolated in the midst of a Stellenbosch security estate, is looking for a new owner - and it's not alone.

A 7ha vineyard at the heart of De Wijnlanden Estate is on the market for R4 million.

In the past decade, thousands of vineyards in the area have been cut off by developments or destroyed to make way for housing estates, guesthouse complexes, restaurants and even beauty spas.

Some wine farmers are also abandoning vines to switch to olives, almonds and pomegranates in an effort to stay economically viable.

The seven-hectare vineyard of cabernet sauvignon vines, is situated on land that was sold off by the world-famous Meerlust estate more than seven years ago and luxury townhouse security complex of 200 homes, called De Wijnlanden Estate, was built on the site.

Although buyers have snapped up the new homes, no one seems interested in the vineyard - even though the estate has seven dams and all the homes look out on to the vineyard.

Lew Geffen Sothebys estate agent Dr George Cilliers said that, at first, the home owners and developers had tended the vineyard enthusiastically, nurturing big dreams of becoming successful winemakers. But they had gradually lost interest.

"People don't want to do all the work that goes with a wine farm," said Cilliers, who is marketing the vineyard which, with no house attached, is on the market for R4 million.

He said the ideal for the surrounding homeowners would be that the land remained under vines and was properly maintained.

"It needs an owner who wants to harvest the grapes and make wine. It's been properly maintained and trellissed, and is being irrigated via the Eerste River."

But Meerlust viticulturalist Roelie Joubert, who manages 115ha of vineyards, said he definitely did not want it - and suggested that anyone who did buy it would be "out of their mind".

"You will never make money with such a small piece of vineyard," he said, adding that the only alternative was for some rich person to buy it as a hobby.

It was also planted on "very weak soil".

Pointing to the cost realities, Joubert said:

  • Seven hectares can produce 35 tons of grapes.

  • Grapes sell for maximum of R4 000 per ton.

  • It costs R28 000 to maintain 1ha of grapes. This meant a prospective owner would make a loss of at least R56 000 per year, he said.

    This was because the income derived from the vineyard's seven hectares would be about R140 000 a year, but it would cost R196 000 a year to farm the land.

    Joubert said he wouldn't want to spray such a vineyard with chemicals, since it was too close to the surrounding homes, and could lead to homeowners complaining of illness as a result.

    Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)

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