CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Expats making wine in Gironde

PUBLISHED: 10:00 09 March 2015 | UPDATED: 14:35 03 November 2015

The Rowbotham family in their vineyard

The Rowbotham family in their vineyard


Expats Kirstie and Paul Rowbotham moved to Gironde eight years ago and started to produce wine at their vineyard La Tour de Chollet

Our first year in France was really about the family. We have two sons; our eldest, now nine, was a baby when we first moved, and our youngest was born here. Essentially, they are French boys, and have only ever been to a French childminder and schools, plus their friends are all French. They are growing up in a safe environment, with lots of space to run around and live in a big house. There’s no way we could afford this much space in the UK. The school system here is very good, and costs almost nothing from the age of two and half; you need to budget for school books and lunches, though the latter are subsidised.

We love life here, and any downsides of French life versus the UK are very much outweighed by the benefits. There is far less traffic, stress and general aggression in society. It can be very quiet here, particularly in the winter, but if we’re desperate for more life or culture, we go to Bordeaux which is only an hour’s drive away by car.

From a business perspective, we set up a small business which can be tricky, as the infamous French bureaucracy can be frustrating. We make and sell wine – 75% to the UK and the rest here in France – and we also run a B&B, which we launched in 2012. The business is growing quickly, so we could not ask for more at this stage.

It can be tough as a small, organic vineyard to make a profitable venture, even if the wines are good. We consider the fact that we are still here and growing, is in itself rewarding! We are also very keen on honest feedback, so when we get complimented on the wine, and the same applies for our B&B, we are delighted with the response.

If we could do things differently, it would be the building work that we carried out to the property. We spent four years renovating and extending – we did have a reasonable idea of costs, but things took a lot longer than we anticipated. Had we employed a project manager, it would have been completed sooner, been less intrusive, and probably would have ended up costing less overall.

Having lived in France for some time now, our advice to others thinking of making the move would be to figure out what you are going to do, think about how it will work, and make sure that you do not underestimate costs. Be realistic. If you have an idea in mind, then talk to others who have done something similar. Treat a house purchase as you would in the UK; don’t just get sucked in by the romance, or climate; be objective and analytical. Spend some time in the area you are looking at before buying, perhaps renting for six months or more, in order to really get the feel. Then, just focus on the best areas that meet your needs, both in terms of peace and quiet, and that access facilities which meet your needs. And – most important of all – learn the language. Don’t be scared to jump in. The only way you’ll learn is by making mistakes. And smile!”

Read about expats running a successful hotel in Burgundy

Article by Living France Living France

More from Living in France

Tue, 13:44

French cheese doesn’t just have to be saved for the cheeseboard, why not experiment with canapés too?

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How does a jewellery designer, filmmaker and restaurateur who was born in Israel and grew up in New York come to turn a French château into an artists’ retreat? Ziggy Attias shares his life in Champagne-Ardenne

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

France has helped launch a satellite to study the effects of global warming; but how do French attitudes towards climate change compare to those of other Europeans?

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seen a French property that would make fabulous food business but unsure of the paperwork and process? Read Tracy Leonetti’s at-a-glance guide to opening a restaurant or cafe in France

Read more
Running a business
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now