Wine farms in high demand

The historic and scenic towns of Paarl and Wellington in the Boland region of the Western Cape are proving highly sought after among those relocating from major centres such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in search of a more appealing country lifestyle, says Annien Borg, MD of Pam Golding Properties Boland region.

"There's no doubt that this is an increasingly evident trend, further evidenced by the fact that approximately 90 percent of buyers in the Paarl and Wellington areas are seeking a lifestyle farm in order to escape from a city environment. Predominantly a wine farming district with other agricultural activities such as fruit, wheat and buchu farming, lifestyle appeal remains a key factor, coupled with the fact that these areas offer sound value for money," she says.

During 2007 PGP's Paarl agricultural division sold 16 farms at a total value in excess of R91-million and ranging in size between one and 200 hectares.

Borg explains that wine farms command a substantially higher selling price than any other category, most likely due to the typical lifestyle buyer pursuing an ideology which a wine farm promises. “These towns have a sound service infrastructure and good retail centres,” she says. "While schooling in both towns is excellent Paarl is home to some of the best schools in the Western Cape and Wellington is home to the Huguenot College and various faculties of the Cape Technikon.”

James Visser, PGP's agricultural agent in the Drakenstein municipal district which includes Paarl, Wellington, Hermon, Gouda, Saron, Simondium and Paardeberg among others, says buyers of such farms generally have existing incomes and do not need to rely on the farm to generate or supplement their income.

Ambience and aesthetics are more important than agricultural viability

"Ambience and aesthetics in the form of a country-living lifestyle are more important to them than agricultural viability. Since they regard the property as a potential home rather than a business, size is not really an influencing factor. That said, there does seem to be a tendency towards smaller rather than larger, perhaps more daunting properties. Security is an important factor given that many buyers are relocating from suburban areas with high crime rates where they have been conditioned to living with maximum security. Proximity to schools is also a consideration as many buyers have school-going children," he says.

Visser explains that a buyer does not need to be a farmer in order to own a farm. "Often farm ownership is transferred with existing management in place, which can include management and dispersal of the harvest and in some instances also wine making facilities and expertise. With the help and advice of any number of consultants in the industry a purchaser doesn't need previous farming or wine making experience. A wine farm does not necessarily produce its own wine — the grapes are more often sold to co-operative, estate or boutique wineries."

He says a consideration that is very important, irrespective of the size of the farm, is water. "Household or drinking water is usually supplied from a borehole, while irrigation water is either from storage dams filled by winter rains and run-off, or from extensive irrigation schemes sourced from the Berg River. A large farm dam is attractive to the lifestyle buyer for its aesthetic appeal rather than its value as an agricultural water source," adds Visser.

Both Paarl and Wellington are less than 45 minutes from Cape Town

The Paarl and Wellington areas are traditionally home to many farms with historic homesteads and outbuildings, most of them with very old oak trees and other appealing features. Visser says these properties provide much of what the lifestyle buyer is seeking, especially if they have hospitality conversions into a B&B or conference venue in mind.

Located at the foot of the Groenberg and against an impressive backdrop of the majestic Hawequa Mountains, Wellington is situated in a picturesque valley on the banks of the Kromme River. The town itself is small but charming with historic buildings, restaurants, art galleries and other features that make it unique. Wellington is surrounded by expansive vineyards — many of them wine estates open to visitors — and other activities include horse riding, hiking and mountain biking.

The third-oldest town in South Africa, Paarl lies in a valley between the Groot Drakenstein Mountains and Paarlberg, which is the second-largest granite outcrop in the world and which gave rise to the town being named Paarl, meaning 'pearl'. At 12 kilometres the oak lined Main Road is renowned for its unusual length and some of the best examples of Cape Dutch, Edwardian, Victorian and Art Deco architecture to be found — with most of the former possessing National Monument status. This is one of the few towns in South Africa where vineyards and orchards still border streets and houses. Paarl has a thriving hospitality industry and is famous for its world-class wines and brandies, as well as abundant fauna and flora.