There are plenty of rent-a-vine programs around. The idea behind them is that you rent a portion of a vineyard for a year and then get the wines that those vines produces. Most of the ones I’ve seen are a bit uninspiring and some are seemingly just gimmicks, but there’s one that has caught my eye as being on another level. It’s called Grapekeeper, and it is run by Ana Monforte Weijters, who grew up in Portugal, married a Dutch guy and moved to the Netherlands, but who still has a place in Portugal where she’s been living with her family during the pandemic.
Grapekeeper’s difference is that Ana has teamed up with some serious wine producers. She chooses top wineries, but the condition is that they have to work in a truly sustainable manner. You can choose how much of the vineyard to rent, and then you get the wine from it. Losses or bonuses are capped at 20% (if the vintage is short you get less, or if it is abundant you get more, so you share some of the winegrower’s risk). Then, after the wine is made, you get personalized bottles of serious wine. And during the growing season you are kept up to date; you are free to visit the winery; and some of the packages even include stays. It’s a very clever way of selling fine wine; one that brings the buyer into some sort of relationship with the winegrower.
Ana has partnerships with seven winemakers so far. There’s Staffelter Hof in the Mosel, Selva Carpuzza in Lake Garda, Vinyes del Terra in Tarragona, Vega Aixalà in Conca de Barberà, Rivetto in Piedmont, and Serveaux Fils in Champagne.
But the latest is a real surprise. When Ana told me she was going to work with Dirk Niepoort in the Douro (I first met Ana at a supper in Dirk’s home) I never expected that he’d give her access to one of his top vineyards: Vinha do Carril. Niepoort bought Carril – which is a short walk from Quinta do Napoles in the Tedo Valley – in 1988, when the vines were already over 60 years old. It’s planted with 40 different varieties, which are all mixed in together, and – importantly, in this warm region – it is north facing, which helps keep freshness in the wines.
The website is: https://www.grapekeeper.com/