How I made it work: winemakers in Lot

Sarah and David Meakin moved to Lot 20 years ago to become wine-makers, where they now produce award-winning organic wines. After featuring the couple in the magazine in February 2009, we catch up for a five-year update

For me (Sarah), the first year was so hard. I had never lived more than 20 miles from my family, I didn’t speak French, I didn’t know how to drive a tractor, I didn’t drink red wine let alone know how to make it! I met, married and left for France all in 18 months; this was David’s dream and I was supporting him.

This is our 20th year and I suppose the things that affected me then still do a bit now; leaving family and friends and a way of life behind. The new way of life made up for it – no more ‘nine-to-five’ or someone telling you what to do. The idea was to do what we wanted and when – all year was a holiday.

The hardest thing for us was how to sell our wine. We took on a market stall at the local markets – it was the best and cheapest way to advertise, sell our wine and it encouraged people to come to the farm to buy.

Since 2009 a few things have changed; our wines are now fully organic and our beers will be shortly. This has boosted our sales and we have increased our local client base – it is so nice to hear when a local French person compliments our wine with the classic saying “pas mal pour les Anglais” – they really do appreciate a good product and they are very loyal.

In our first years, the most rewarding aspect from a business point of view has been seeing our vines produce award-winning wines, considering we came here with no knowledge of viticulture. It is so rewarding seeing the beer side of the business grow.

Our best advice for anybody moving to France is to do your homework and perhaps rent short-term before you buy so you get a better feel for the area, and talk to people that have already done it. Also, make sure you have enough money in reserve, just in case!

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Looking back, we never really stopped and looked around us enough (and still don’t). In the beginning, we never had the time or the energy to interact with our local community, which has in some ways now made us a little isolated, but, saying that our market lives have made up for that.

Seeing our two children Zachary and Sophie-Tor grow up climbing trees, swimming in rivers and lakes, riding horses bareback across our fields and interact in two different cultures without batting an eyelid has made up for any hardship we have had or might have in the future…