Like many wine aficionados, José Manuel Ortega Gil-Fournier wondered what it would be like to bottle his own varietal. To turn his dream into a reality, the Spanish-born investment banker left his successful career to start his own vineyard.
But this venture came with an innovative entrepreneurial twist. Launched in 2012, his O. Fournier Wine Partners program, based in a vineyard purchased by the O. Fournier label in Mendoza, Argentina’s Valle de Uco, allows other wine enthusiasts to indulge similar dreams of creating their own vintage.
The Wine Partners program sells vineyard plots in the Andes foothills, ranging in size from one to three hectares (2.5 to 7.4 acres). To date, 32 plots have been sold, but 84 separate tracts are available to investors, who get all of the benefits of owning a vineyard without the hassle of day-to-day management. The winery’s staff plants, tends to and harvests the grapes—including Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Torontés, and Chardonnay—produces the wine, and even helps design unique bottle labels.
Many of the partners, he says, are as interested in the vineyard “lifestyle” as they are in the product; so, in addition to the vineyards, the O. Fournier Group offers a luxury hotel for the partners and guests. Proprietors of the eight largest vineyards also have the option of building a villa on the property to be maintained by the hotel staff. Other estate perks include the fine cuisine available at the Urban restaurant, access to nearby ski destinations, and even a children’s juice-making course designed to mirror the wine-making process.
Almost half of the plots have been sold, and some early partners are already tasting the fruit of their investment. One partner will be serving his own private-label wine at his upcoming 25th wedding anniversary. “That emotional part [of wine production] is very special to me,” Ortega explains. We’ll raise a glass to that—though we don’t plan to make it.