THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN EARLY IN 2010, WHEN OUR PLANS WERE TO SELL GRAPES RATHER THAN MAKE WINE.

Working on a vineyard is wonderfully rewarding and therapeutic, you’re outside in the fresh air surrounded by nature. It’s beautiful, but people don’t do it for nothing; growing grapes is a business and your vineyard needs to make money.

But how much money can you make from each acre? This is the big question that I have been trying to find a solid answer to since the first talk of this vineyard project started almost two months ago. I now know how to answer the question.

On paper, it’s quite simple. Work out how many tonnes of grapes you will get per acre and multiply that by the market value of a tonne of grapes. So, if the market value of grapes is £1000 per tonne and you produce 2 tonnes per acre and you have 5 acres (which we do), then it’s 5 x 2 x £1000. In this scenario, you’ll make £10,000.

Luckily, you know how many acres you have, and that’s not going to change. But to work out how many grapes you will get per acre, you need to be able to predict how many bunches of grapes each vine will produce and how much each bunch will weigh. If you have a good year, lots of sunshine, there’ll be more than in a bad year. It’s impossible to predict, but you can estimate based on previous experience and as I understand it, an average would be somewhere between 2 and 3 tonnes per acre.

But then we come to market price. It’s not set in stone, some grape varieties are more sort after than others and all have their own ‘bench mark’ price, but that doesn’t mean you will definitely achieve this when you come to selling. We’ve not got to that stage yet, but it does occur to me, that in a good year, one where there are more grapes, buyers will have more to choose from and the glut could force prices down.

It seems accurately calculating how much money you will have when (if) you have sold all of the grapes is something close to impossible. Now consider that you have to take out of that the costs of raising your vines and growing marketable grapes. Those costs aren’t so fluid, you can calculate a reasonably accurate per acre cost.

As I said, I know how to answer the question, but I don’t know the answer. Unfortunately it’s impossible to do better than make an estimate of how much each acre of vines will make in cash, there are just too many moving variables involved.

So, how much money you can make by growing grapes on five acres of vines? At the moment, it’s anyone’s guess!