Spain has some magnificent properties – from historic country houses to hotel complexes and ancient vineyards
By Fiona Flores Watson
There has never been a better time to invest in country estates in Spain. Whether you want an historic house with equestrian facilities, a sporting estate deep in the countryside, or a well-established vineyard, the opportunities are many and varied. There are a wide variety of estates, with hunting properties in areas such as Asturias in the north-west, Extremadura (south-west) and Andalucia (south), which is well-known one of the top areas for caza (hunting) in Spain; Princes William and Harry are regular visitors at the Duke of Westminster’s estate in Cordoba province to hunt wild boar and stag.
Some estates have their own vineyards and olive, orange and other fruit trees which can be used to produce harvests either for personal use (as a passion investment) or commercially. Many Andalucian estates are within easy reach of airports such as Seville and Granada.
Another up-and-coming area for foreign investment is vineyards, for example in the Priorat and Penedes areas of Catalonia, in the north-east. Another interesting option is Jerez de la Frontera, in south-western Andalucia, where sherry has been made for centuries.
The right property can move extremely fast, explains Charlotte Rodriguez, Partner and Director of Equestrian, Wine, Country Estates at Lucas Fox.
“Last December we sold an equestrian property near Carmona, in Andalucia, in four days,” she says. “The house was in immaculate condition, beautifully refurbished, in excellent taste. The same buyer also bought an equestrian estate in Cadiz.”
There are a variety of reasons why properties come on the market, explains Charlotte.
In some cases, a Spanish seller may own several estates they’ve inherited, and want to sell off one or two, while if it is a foreigner selling, they may be moving up to a larger property. “Often they’re not going back to their home country; they’re just moving to a different area.”
Estates vary hugely in size: one of the most extensive properties is the 450-hectare Montenmedio near Vejer de la Frontera in Cadiz, the biggest equestrian estate in southern Europe, which has facilities for over 1200 horses and hosts the Sunshine Tour show jumping competition. Montenmedio also has planning for 800 houses and a 1200-room aparthotel.
At the other end of the scale, and ideal as a self-sufficiency project, is La Jarilla in Granada province, south-eastern Andalucia.
Hidden in the Sierra de Contraviesa mountains, a few km inland from the coast but so cleverly located it is totally private, is La Jarilla. This 25-hectare hillside property, beautifully restored by the present owner using locally-reclaimed materials, offers a main house, plus three cottages (sleeping 20 in total) and a swimming pool, used as a rental business.
Full of Andalucian charm, and enjoying spectacular views, the estate produces its own wine and olive oil, with three vineyards (Merlot, Shiraz and Tempranillo; Pedro Ximenez, Macabeo and Verdejo grapes) yielding 2000 litres per year; the 400 olive trees, half of which the owner planted himself, produce 1000 kilos per year, which is bottled as 200 litres of olive oil; both are consumed by the owner and his guests. This estate also has 3000 almond trees and a vegetable garden; its own water supply and a helipad; wild boar can be hunted, as well as partridge. The sea is only half an hour away, yet the estate is totally secluded, with its own 4km drive from the road. The nearest airport in Granada, an hour away.
For those who prefer something closer to a city, popular Spanish singer and personality Bertin Osborne, of the Osborne sherry family, is selling his beautiful equestrian estate located 7km from Seville. With stabling for 70 horses, the 250-year-old finca has been tastefully restored, and also has 250 olive and 250 orange trees.
Bertin, who says he had been in love with haciendas since he was a child, bought the former olive oil mill 20 years ago. “I was looking for a nice old historic place to restore, with good connections and close to the airport.” The house, which dates from 1761, has an authentic Andalucian feel, with original doors and most windows, while the pressing machine and earthenware jars in the sitting room, used to mill and store the oil, are a delightful feature recalling the house’s agricultural heritage. The property also includes a swimming pool, sauna, and gym, along with two cottages, and offers 15 beds and 15 bathrooms in total.
For those keen on a property with hunting estate, the provinces of Seville, Huelva and Cordoba offer excellent possibilities. One hour from Seville, but also close to the historic city of Cordoba, is La Mezquetilla, a large traditional country house with nine bedrooms and seven bathrooms, swimming pool and padel court. The house boasts some unusual period features, such as rare antique ceramic tiles and carved mahogany doors, as well as a hand-painted mural in the dining room, a hunting salon, and a wonderfully light tower room, formerly used as an artist’s studio. Guesthouses and staff cottages offer a further seven bedrooms, and there are stables and a bullring.
The estate itself is 641 hectares, including 40 hectares of olive trees, which produce 130,000 kilos of olives. The rest of the property is agricultural (wheat), pasture and hunting land: hilly woodland of oak and wild olive trees, and scrubland, where wild boar and deer roam; a river runs through the property, providing drinking water for the animals, although it cannot be used for other purposes (the estate has its own wells). One day’s hunting typically produces around 50 head of deer and 20 boar. The estate is also equipped for breeding acorn-fed Iberico pigs, renowned for their superb cured ham, with two zahudas (pig houses).
At the commercial end of the Spanish property offering, are the geographically varied and highly productive vineyards – as of 2013, Spain is the world’s top wine producer. One prospective investor in Spanish vineyards is English artesan-spirit distiller, William Chase. The man who started out making vodka by using potatoes leftover from producing his Tyrells Crisps (since sold) now has one of the most-respected family-owned single-estate distilleries in the UK. He is looking to invest in Spanish vineyards, with one potential area being Catalonia, in the north-east corner of Spain – specifically, the wine-producing regions of Priorat and Penedes, one of the oldest in Spain, dating from Phoenician times in the sixth century BC.
“I want a very special wine,” he says. “A small production – not your mass-produced riojas. I don’t like the garish, modern wines from new vineyards.” His favoured grape varieties are grenache (known as garnacha in Spain) and carignon (cariñena), which take around 70 years to mature and make strong, dark-coloured red wines; some cariñena vines in Priorat are over 100 years old. William is looking to buy a vineyard of around 200 hectares with an already-established production – high quality, on a small scale, just like his Chase gin and vodka. “I want a traditional, perfect wine,” he explains. The spirit distiller is also considering bodegas (wineries) in Jerez, although on a considerably larger scale – 1000 hectares. Sherry is increasingly popular in the UK, and is a unique drink whose potential attracts an expert niche producer like Chase.
Whether in you are interested in “passion”, hunting, equestrian or commercial estates, Spain is a market which offers some excellent investment opportunities. There is a wide range of properties available, to suit every budget and all tastes.